He Said, She Said*

If such a thing as a sleeper still exists in the world of huge-budgeted Hollywood, He Said, She Said might just qualify. It’s a frequently charming romance that takes off from a gimmicky premise: The love story is told from two viewpoints. His and hers movies, you might say.

The romance in question takes place between two newspaper columnists, Dan (Kevin Bacon) and Lorie (Elizabeth Perkins). They write opposing editorial pieces that take different sides of a particular issue; they’re sort of the Siskel and Ebert of the op-ed page. Despite their political differences – he comes from a goofy old conservative family and is always quoting his Uncle Olav, her parents discuss methods of contraception at the dinner table – they fall for each other. After a while, their point-counterpoint routine gets a regular spot on the local news.

The film begins with the two of them in a crisis. Lorie gets so fed up with Dan that she plunks him in the head with a coffee cup – the heavy kind, the kind that creates a noticeable DING when brought into contact with someone’s forehead. This happens during a broadcast, which makes the ratings soar. (See, they really are like Siskel and Ebert.)

The courtship is then recounted in flashback, first from the male perspective, as we see Dan’s version. The second half of the movie puts the female spin on the story. The most intriguing part of this gimmick is that the male parts of the film are directed by a man, Ken Kwapis (Vibes); the female stuff is directed by Marisa Silver (Old Enough). The two moviemakers are engaged to be married.

Actually, the gimmick becomes something more than just a gimmick. There are distinct dynamics to the two sections of the movie. Seeing the same scene from (literally) different angles pays off in some amusing ways.

The man’s stuff is straightforward and funny, full of goofy/dumb male things, such as Dan’s theory of commitment, which he somehow gleaned from the example of the Wolfman, one of his idols.

The woman’s stuff is a bit more delicately shaded, and draws a more complex performance from Elizabeth Perkins (who shines throughout and continues to be one of our most appealing actresses).

I’m not sure if we can credit this change in depth to something intrinsically female, or simply to the fact that Marisa Silver is a more interesting director than her counterpart. The whole movie, incidentally, looks good. Steven Burum’s cinematography has a level of care that you don’t see in many Hollywood comedies these days.

Brian Hohlfeld’s screenplay is light on anything like real insight, but it’s funny enough. If you go to this film not expecting much more than decent entertainment with a couple of ingratiating star performances, chances are you won’t be disappointed. That’s what he said, anyway.

First published in The Herald, February 1991

So help me, I though this was an ’80s film, until I typed the whole thing up and then checked the release date. Dammit. Let me sneak this one in and put an asterisk by it. Sharon Stone and Nathan Lane are in it – oh, what a lead couple they might have been with the same premise.

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