Review: Think Like a Man

I saw this last April but for some reason forgot to put it on my list. It is the last 2012 film I have to review!

Think Like a Man (2012)
Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henderson, Meagan Good.

thinkThink Like a Man‘s premise is almost all by itself enough to make me hate it. Four women independently read Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and decide to take Harvey’s advice in their floundering love lives. These are smart, very beautiful women, and while that by no means exempts them from the problems plaguing us all as we struggle through love and romance, you’d think they’d have better access to guidance than a marginally funny stand-up comedian who’s been divorced twice and was the least entertaining (by far!) of the Original Kings of Comedy.

Yet it manages not to suck because its characters are mostly likable, its actors do a pretty good job, and everyone in the movie is just so great to look at. Although most of the characters’ decisions strain credulity, there are elements of realism I think most singles over the age of 28 will recognize. The road to romance is fraught with all kinds of unspeakable peril, and we all know (if we are not ourselves) smart, attractive, professionally successful people who seem to make it work in every aspect of their lives but one. If nothing else, this movie gives us a few moments to consider reasons for this puzzle.

The film tells the stories of four loosely connected couples, breaking the plot strands into four types, defined by the Steve Harvey book:

The Mama’s Boy vs. The Single Mom
The Non-Committer vs. The Girl Who Wants the Ring
The Dreamer vs. The Woman Who Is Her Own Man
The Player vs. The 90-Day-Rule Girl

thinkI dislike this structure, mostly for two reasons. First, it sets these lovers up as opponents, each trying to get what he or she wants from the other, rather than trying to negotiate some kind of common ground from which to proceed. Second, the wording of the match-ups hints that the parties who really need advice are the men, but the men are so self-unaware that it’s the women who have to make changes to their lives in order to help the men come to their senses. I’m okay with the “you can only change yourself” approach to life, but here the women are changing themselves so they can change others, and this seems like a losing proposition to me, as life advice and script-writing advice.

Another problem is that these are all very nice, very attractive people. The implication that these people need to make romance work with these specific other people seems misguided. There is nothing truly wrong with any of the characters, and the are flawed only because they are human. Wouldn’t it have been better (and a more admirable challenge) to write a movie where these characters find the kinds of partners who are compatible and can make it work? Why, for example, couldn’t the Non-Committer, rather than learning to leave behind youthful interests and commit to a grown-up relationship, have found someone who shares his values and is equally non-committed but also equally in love?

thinkIt’s a romantic comedy, so you know where it all leads, and that’s fine by me, and its nice to see a film with a predominantly African-American cast that doesn’t water down its characters’ ethnicities and doesn’t play down to easy stereotypes or expectations. Where it fails to really distinguish itself is in letting us get to know the characters, probably a consequence of having to spread itself out among four stories. This is another of those films where you wish the cast just had stronger material. It doesn’t suck, but it only succeeds because its goals are so shallow and simplified.


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