Rom-Com Purgatory: “Failure To Launch.”
My girlfriend is working on a project about romantic comedies, and as such she’s had to watch a lot of them. I agreed to sit through them with her. These are some of the terrible things I learned…
“Failure to Launch” is a disturbing, overlooked horror movie from 2006; a hidden gem suffused with creeping, existential terror. It deals with a traumatised man (Matthew McConaughey) learning that everyone around him — and even nature itself — is engaged in a prolonged attempt to destroy his sanit-
Wait, one sec…
…That CAN’T be right…
…okay, I’m back. I just read the notes on this movie and it’s apparently meant to be a comedy. In which case, holy shit, is this review going to need some rewrites.
“Failure to Launch” is perhaps explained as a frightening look into the mind of two lunatic aliens who have written a script which they seem to think mimics human behaviour. They are deeply, bafflingly wrong about this.
Trip, (Matthew McConaughey) lives with his parents despite being 35 years old. This movie was made in the heady, pre-financial crash days when the only reason for still living at home was apparently laziness, compared to the modern day when nobody under the age of fifty can reasonably expect to own a house and living with one’s parents is a daily hell for a great many people.
Trip’s parents want him to move out, but also wait on him hand and foot. Too stupid to see a way to fix this scenario, they hire Sarah Jessica Parker, a horse-faced sociopath who specialises in emotional manipulation.
I’m not kidding. Parker’s character offers a service — for money — in which she seduces people’s adult children, convinces them to move out of their parents’ houses, and then dumps them. She is very clear that she never sleeps with these men, so her job is essentially “morally bankrupt cocktease-for-hire.”
Meanwhile, Matthew McConaughey is hanging out with his friends who also still live at home — Bradley Cooper, before he was hungover, depressed, a sniper or a raccoon, and some other asshole. He’s also occasionally seen in the company of a sassy black child who seems to hang out with these grown men just to tip the racial balance of the cast from “Klan meeting” to merely “embarrassingly white.” The only other person of colour in the entire movie is a Mexican guy whose yacht Matthew McConaughey briefly steals to impress Sarah Jessica Parker.
This, you see, is because McConaughey works as a yacht salesman, and, because everyone in this movie is an awful person, he sometimes steals yachts from clients to get secretly laid.
Sarah Jessica Parker returns home to the house she shares with Zooey Deschanel, and we’re presumably meant to believe that they’re contemporaries despite a raging 20 year age gap. Zooey is doing some sort of emo goth sarcasm schtick and also being kept awake at night by a bird outside her window. Sarah Jessica Parker explains all about how she’s working to emotionally cripple another man for financial reward, but that this time she might be tempted to fuck him, first.
I don’t know what happened in a past relationships of the guys who wrote this movie, but I’m pretty sure they will one day do something that will be studied in criminology textbooks for decades to come.
Matthew McConaughey keeps getting bitten by animals, which is presumably meant to be funny, but, like everything else in this film, is actually just “something that happens while the audience stare in confusion.”
McConaughey, worried he is developing feelings for Sarah Jessica Parker, decides to take her home and expose her to the fact that he lives with his parents, which is a surefire way to make a woman dump him so he regains his freedom. SJP meets the parents and pretends not to know these people, who are paying her to ruin their son’s mental health, and then has sex with him while they listen because she is an actual god damned monster devoid of any shred of conscience.
At some point, one of Matthew McConaughey’s friends catches Sarah Jessica Succubus on a date with ANOTHER live-at-home guy she’s seducing, and decides that he’ll ignore it if SJP sets him up with Zooey Deschanel. Parker, backed into a corner, doesn’t hesitate and blithely uses her friend’s vagina as a bargaining chip, adding “pimp” to her list of crimes in the process.
Somewhere around here, SJP learns that the reason McConaughey sometimes has the unexplained black kid with him is that he was engaged to the boy’s mother, who died.
It’s supposed to be a big revelation, but instead just raises a shit ton of questions.
Where does this kid live?! Is he sleeping under a bridge somewhere when he’s not in McConaughey’s care?! Why, if McConaughey’s parents know he’s still recovering from the death of his fiancee, aren’t they more fucking sympathetic to his living at home?! Why does this appear to change the morality for Sarah Jessica Parker’s character?! She was fine with flirting with a guy until he rented an apartment and then ghosting him, but not if he’s hot and was once in a relationship?! Has she only just realised other people can have feelings?! WE ALL HAVE FEELINGS, SARAH!
McConaughey’s friends decide to tell him about SJP being a fraud, now that one of them has had a go on Zooey Deschanel’s twat. Also, they explain why they’re MEANT to live at home (some old bollocks about Bradley Cooper being an explorer in his off season? I’m not making that up…) but that McConaughey’s living with his parents is so wrong that it offends nature itself, explaining why things keep biting him.
Speaking of animals and violence, Zooey Deschanel decides to shoot the bird outside her window, and goes to a gun store. She attempts to buy a shotgun and just the one shell, leading to the salesman thinking she’s suicidal and the whole scene being played for laughs. Because if there’s one thing funnier than a woman tricking a man into a mortgage with feigned emotion and then abandonning him, it’s violent suicide. I’m amazed that this film didn’t have a wacky subplot about rectal cancer.
Unable to buy the gun she wants, Zooey tries to physically wrestle it away from the gun salesman. In a gun store. In front of the other staff. She couldn’t be asking to get shot any more clearly if she decided to black up and mind her own business near a cop. Somehow, she makes it out of the store alive and finds that Sarah Jessica Parker, now suffering from an uncharacteristic smidge of conscience, is fleeing the state. And, presumably, abdicating her half of the rent, but this goes unmentioned. McConaughey has blown the lid on the whole plan and is entirely justifiably angry at the people who tried to manipulate him in the worst way imaginable.
This leads his mother to apologise and admit that she didn’t talk to him about moving out because she didn’t really want him to move out. She didn’t not-want-it enough to stop her from paying a stranger to seduce him to ensure that it happened, you understand. She was just sort of on the fence about the whole plan, then went through with it anyway because nothing in this movie makes any sense, all women are untrustworthy psychopaths and again: we need to find the people who wrote this and keep them away from females and sharp objects.
With McConaughey now alright alright alright about his parents’ deception, it just remains for him to make up with professional liar Sarah Jessica Parker, for some reason. To this end, his friends kidnap him and tie him up in a room full of secret cameras.
If you’re correctly remembering that waking up bound and gagged in a room full of cameras is the plot of at least half the “Saw” movies, I don’t know what to tell you. With friends like these, who needs psychotic torture puppets?!
Sarah Jessica Parker is then lured to the house and locked inside, because luring a woman into a room and then locking her in with a bound and gagged man who hates her is, I think, the plot of all the other “Saw” films.
As their friends/captors watch from a cafe on a laptop, the two leads work out their problems and inevitably kiss, leading a passing waitress to fall in love with Bradley Cooper for no established reason. Honestly, this woman walks past a group of people observing a hostage situation on CCTV and instantly becomes so horny that she starts making out with the nearest human male whilst still on the clock at her waitressing gig.
Matthew McConaughey then re-launches his long-dry-docked boat — it was formerly named for his dead fiancee, but he renames it for Sarah Jessica Parker. Having thusly invoked the wrath of both Poseidon and his fiancee’s poltergeist, he sails off into the sunset, leaving behind friends who will betray him at the drop of a hat and parents who hire strangers to trick him with sex for the company of a woman he can never possibly trust again.
It would be nice to think that True Detective was the darkest thing Matthew McConaughey has ever starred in — and I would still dearly love to see his nihilist, alcoholic detective character as the lead in a bubbly romcom through some sort of script mixup — but “Failure To Launch” is something stranger and darker than the occult serial killings in that show. It’s so relentlessly unfunny that nobody can honestly believe it’s meant to be a comedy, and all of the characters are so uniformly horrible that it seems to inhabit a moral universe where empathy is completely unheard of. It’s the story of a man being deceived by everyone who pretends to love him following the death of his fiancee (whose child he appears to have since abandoned) and who is repeatedly attacked by nature itself. Even the fucking chipmunks are out to get him.
Frustratingly, the two writers listed for this film aren’t credited one way or another. As a fun fact, when writers are listed with an ampersand between their names, it means they worked jointly on the project, whilst if they are listed with the word “and” between them, it means one writer worked on the script, and then another. IMDb and Wikipedia just list the writers as two separate credits without either form of conjunction, so there’s no way to tell if this was a film written by two deeply disturbed people, or a script written by one man and subsequently butchered by another writer who was in the middle of some sort of divorce-related breakdown, or else the ramblings of a mental patient which were somehow optioned as a movie before being inadequately polished by a hack.
Whoever is responsible, we can only hope they eventually got the help they clearly, clearly needed.