To say Mary (Katherine Barrell) has been unlucky in the love department is a bit of an understatement. Her college boyfriend, the handsome, but dim-witted Patrick (André Bharti, who also wrote the script), was a drama major who spent more time getting high than he did studying. Fed up with Patrick’s lack of ambition, she eventually moved on with the career driven, and extremely narcissistic, Ted (Ray Galletti). After two long years of dating, Mary is devastated to learn that her dinner date with Ted, at the fanciest restaurant in town no less, is not the setting for the wedding proposal she was hoping for. Instead Ted uses the romantic setting to announce that he has found someone else.
Heartbroken and wallowing in self-pity, Mary reluctantly agrees to her friends’ suggestion of visiting a psychic, Mona Lisa (Royal Canadian Air Farce’s Luba Goy), who specializes in reuniting people with their exes. Desperate to win Ted back, Mary is startled when it is actually Patrick who happens to reappear in her life after almost a decade. Assuming that the psychic made a huge blunder, by casting the spell on her ex-ex instead of her ex, Mary finds herself in a tough position. By all accounts Ted is the one who meets all of the criteria she is looking for on paper. However, Mary cannot deny that Patrick has an irresistible charm that she is inexplicably drawn to.
To complicate matters further, if Mary truly wants to be with Ted, and reverse Mona Lisa’s plunder in the process, she will need to break Patrick’s heart all over again.
While the whimsical premise may suggest a traditional fairy tale romance, My Ex-Ex leans more towards the thirty-something brand of raunchy comedy that the likes of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have perfected in recent years. Though Nathaniel Walsh’s film is filled with plenty of racy jokes, some that would make even a foul-mouthed sailor blush, the comedy rarely lands the way one would hope. Part of the problem is that Bharti’s script focuses so much on the rapid one-liners that it neglects to give the characters any sort of dimension. It is akin to watching a stand-up comedian who forgoes a good set up, but still expects big laughs simply because the punchline features sexually explicit language.
This not to say that crude humour does not have its place in the romantic comedy genre. In fact when it works it can be downright refreshing. However, the characters need to be interesting enough to make the audience want to follow them through all of their various pratfalls. The recurring flaw with My Ex-Ex is that the film never provides a reasonable explanation as to why Mary would be interested in either guy?
In a flashback sequence Patrick admits, after presumably dating her for some time, that he does not even know Mary’s major – indicating that her interests are not as important to him as puffing on his “dong bong” and heading off to the next keg party. Even when he tries to win her over and show her his more respectable side years later, by taking her to a frat party where he is an honorary member, because a thirty year-old is too old to join, the film offers little evidence as to the substantial qualities Patrick actually brings to the relationship? Ted is no saint either. Walsh introduces Ted by showing him saying “I love you” to his own reflection. To emphasize the point further, the film includes a random sex scene between Ted and his new girlfriend which serves no other purpose than to highlight that Ted likes to get busy while looking at an oil painting of his image.
For a film that is supposed to be about Mary’s romantic problems, she feels like a passenger in her own story. Her entire sense of being revolves around having a man in her life. We are told repeatedly that Mary is a great prosecution lawyer, but the only time we see any semblance of her personal strength comes is at the very end of the film.
In fact, none of the females come off that well in the film. Mary’s best friends, Becky (Tamara Duarte) and Sandy (sharply played by Emily Alatalo), come across as the Betty and Veronica of male fantasies rather than well-rounded individuals. Becky is the naïve mousey one who might secretly be lusting after Mary. This is in direct contrast to Sandra, the the Samantha of their Sex and the City style clique, who is the icy, but sexually experienced vixen. Neither woman is given much to do in comparison to their male counterparts. The men may be juvenile, but the script seems to reward their bad behavior more so than it does when the roles are reversed. Patrick’s equally juvenile friends mock, or slut-shaming depending on your viewpoint, Sandra for being promiscuous in college one minute – apparently being a sexually liberated women is more scorn worthy than being a thirty-something married man who pops Viagra in hopes of having a fling at a frat party – and then revel in the fact she offers her drunken body to them for a threesome the next. The ill-conceived pregnancy scare arc, which gets dropped magically towards the end, seems to punish Sandra’s indiscretion more than it does her partners.
The most disappointing aspect of the film is that is does not utilize the talented cast to their full potential. There are occasional stretches where, thanks to some heavy lifting by the actors, the film offers glimpses of the great film My Ex-Ex could have been. However, even the cast cannot overcome the weight of an overstuffed script, which waits until the film is half-way done to introduce the rapping equivalent of a Greek Chorus, that is filled with one-dimensional characters. While it can be really amusing to see men behaving like boys, there comes a point where they need to grow up and take responsibility for their life. Unfortunately in My Ex-Ex that moment comes far too late.