'He said, she said'

February 22, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

$TC 'He Said, She Said'

Starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins.

Directed by Ken Kwapis and Marisa Silver.

Released by Paramount.

PG-13.

**

The new romantic comedy, "He Said, She Said," takes as its premise the wise observation that men and women tend to process both information and memory with subtle differences and have, moreover, different agendas in dealing with their emotional lives. It dramatizes this conceit by telling the same story twice, first from his point of view and then from hers; and, to further extend the notion, the director of each story is of the same sex as the point of view character; and, to push it still further into the realm of complexity, the two directors, Ken Kwapis and Marisa Silver, are engaged.

And, for this city, still another level of complexity or perplexity is added: It was filmed here last summer. And for this newspaper, still another level: the two participants are reporters, then columnists, at The Sun, and later, following from their newspaper celebrity, commentators on WBAL-TV.

I won't belabor the Sun aspects, other than to say they aren't terribly convincing and have absolutely nothing in common with this institution's reality. For example, at The Sun we don't think about sex 98 percent of the time. It's much more like 96 percent. During wartime it drops to 95 percent.

But the movie isn't a newspaper film; far more important is the emotional wiring of the piece. Does it get the people, irrespective of profession, right? Does it illuminate their hearts and make us care about them?

The answer is mixed. Kevin Bacon's Dan Hanson, a newsroom stud who likes to love 'em and leave 'em, seems a bit callow and Elizabeth Perkins' Lorri Bryer, a New Woman pining to get aboard the New York Times, a bit shrill; maybe they do deserve each other.

Each, it seems, is a star of ye olde newspaper and when an "op-ed" column becomes available each is given a chance to win it. So each hacks out a column and those zany, wacky Sun editors like each piece so much they decide to run them both in a guy-gal He Said/She Said format.

The He Said/She Said thing takes off with an excited readership, exactly as does their raspy, twitchy relationship, one of those in-spite-of perplexities that have bedeviled men and women since the beginning. He's conservative, she's liberal. He's a pig, she's a feminist. He's a reporter, she's a writer. She's in touch with her feelings, he's in touch with his glands.

The movie's "Rashoman"-like structure makes some nice points about perceptions, that is when it's not boring you with repetition. He's so interested in himself, nothing about her bugs him, simply because it doesn't register. Meanwhile, she's so busy ticking off his flaws -- political uncorrectness, too much mousse, bad taste in sluts -- that it stuns her to discover that she loves him.

"He Said, She Said" is not without its charms, although Baltimore isn't one of them -- there's no sense of milieu and the film feels as if it were shot in that generic movie city, Toronto, U.S.A. But in subtle ways, the camera work represents each world view.

Still . . . you really have to work hard for such pleasures. The structure is insanely ambitious and at times this relatively simple romantic story is as freighted with flashback as a film noir. We swirl back, with flashbacks inside flashbacks like Katushka dolls, until the forward line of the story is completely lost; and that's just "He Said."

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