No, it's not a film about cross-dressing pets. I'm seizing the opportunity to show off my Shetland sheepdog, "Buddy".
Actually it's a movie about veterinarian Abby Barnes (GAROFALO), who gives advice to pet owners calling in to her radio show aptly titled "The Truth About Cats and Dogs." Abby is intelligent and witty with a sexy voice but a mere 5'1" and plain. This gives her zero confidence around men, and with good reason. In the film's beginning she's walking into her office building behind a business suit with three tall, beautiful women. He holds the door for them and lets it slam on Abby. That's the story of her life...until she takes a call from British photographer Brian (CHAPLIN) who needs help removing roller skates from the feet of a big angry dog he borrowed from the pound for a photo shoot. He falls for Abby's calming, charming voice and wants to meet her for a drink. "Why would I meet a listener I know nothing about except he puts roller skates on his dog?" With no intention of showing up for fear of rejection she describes herself as 5'10", thin, and blonde just like her neighbor, model Noelle Sisklarski (THURMAN). Noelle has the opposite of Abby's problem. She's beautiful but so dumb that she lets her manager/boyfriend Roy abuse her. "But ya gotta have a boyfriend," she justifies, "otherwise it's just you, a cat, and forty candles on your birthday cake."
Noelle visits Abby at the radio station just as Brian shows up still dying to meet the woman behind the voice and thank her for persuading him to adopt "Hank" the dog. Brian's looks are just as dreamy as his accent, so Abby makes Noelle pretend to be Dr. Abby Barnes. "He has a preconceived notion of me: you. Then he sees me and it's all over." So she keeps pretending to be Donna, "Abby's" friend, living vicariously through Noelle, who's falling for Brian herself. And Brian is baffled as to why a girl that sounds intelligent on the phone and on the radio is so scatty in person.
The movie surprised me. I don't like romantic comedies. I only watched this the first time because Garofalo had the lead. (If you're not familiar with her standup comedy routine you may remember her as Jerry's girlfriend on a SEINFELD episode where he dumps her because she's so much like him it's scary.) The part of Abby Barnes seems written for her. I watched the movie the second time (and third, etc.) for the rest of the cast as well. The characters were a delight. Of course the film needed to be character-driven because the Cyrano de Bergerac plot has been used as much as Hitchcock's Vertigo, so the ending is predictable. I've only seen Ben Chaplin in one other film but with that British charm he could easily beat Hugh Grant for any leading man roles if he's ambitious enough. The role of Noelle is a real stretch for Thurman who had the hardest acting job. She normally plays brainy strong women like the blind musician in "Jennifer Eight". But Noelle Sisklarski has to take a test in a women's magazine to figure out that Roy is a loser. Emma Peele she's not. I adored the sweet character, but in reality, I couldn't be Noelle's friend. It's humiliating to sit next to a gorgeous woman and be treated like you don't exist. And it's worse if you're in a restaurant with Miss Beautiful who can well afford a few pounds but won't eat what she ordered because "...I love menus, I love ordering, but I don't eat because I have to keep the calories off." In the film's funniest scene Brian tempts her with cake and she breaks down. The way she savors the cake brings to mind someone who told me I was the only girl he knew who could have an orgasm eating chocolate.
The movie's theme is clear. Too many women think like Noelle, that a bad boyfriend is better than no boyfriend. And too many men think like Brian's friend when he meets Noelle: "Oh so you think she's scat-ty? With somebody that fine it doesn't matter!" I thought Brian was too good to be believable until I remembered John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Both could have had any women they wanted, yet neither married a physically attractive one. My theory is that men who are secure don't need trophy women to boost their egos.
My favorite actor was "Hank" who proved himself to be much smarter than Brian. One critic called him a Great Dane but he looks more like a mastiff breed to me. Anyway the large lovable mutt is instrumental in Brian's making the right decision. I personally feel that anyone who doesn't own a pet of some type is evil. Pets are so soothing. Abby sums it up nicely: "They trust you completely and love you unconditionally. People are never that cool." I know what she means. My Sheltie loves me as much when I'm fat as he does when I'm thin. And that's the truth about cats and dogs.
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