Ethics & Public Policy Center

Smile Like Yours, A

Published in EPPC Online on August 1, 1997



A Smile Like Yours, directed by Keith Samples (co-written by Samples and Kevin Meyer), starts off as a kind of throwback to those 1950s comedies in which a lovable ditz of a wife went around getting into trouble which her steady, long-suffering straight-man of a husband would then have to get her out of. George Burns and Gracie Allen, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball come irresistably to mind. Presumably they are meant to, since there is one long scene in the middle of the movie in which our updated couple, Danny and Jennifer Robertson (Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly) simply sit and watch the episode of “I Love Lucy” in which Ricky gets the news, in a typically wacky fashion, that Lucy is pregnant.

The thread of connection here is that Danny and Jennifer are trying to conceive a child and are unable to do so. Predictable jokes and over-familiar situations abound as the two make love in odd places and at odd times, then visit a fertility clinic with all its potential for cute embarrassment. A large, grim-faced, unsympathetic woman nurse takes a prurient interest in Danny and looks like a very big baby herself. Each partner has a funny friend at work — Danny installs elevators along with marriage-weary Steve (Jay Thomas) while Jennifer sells perfumes and “aromatherapy” along with man-hungry Nancy (Joan Cusack) — and each has a potential suitor just waiting for the inevitable moment when we know misunderstanding will (temporarily) drive them apart. Danny is pursued by a glamorous architect called Lindsay (Jill Hennessy) and Jennifer, so that she may be elevated above the level of sex object, is courted for a perfume she has invented by Richard Halstrom (Christopher McDonald), a big cosmetics tycoon. Naturally she proves a shrewd businesswoman. Nowadays, a girl can’t overdo the ditzy act.

There are only two things wrong with this movie, the plot and the stars. The plot revolves, as plots in these kinds of movies almost invariably do, around the temporary estrangement of the principals, but this is so artificial as to be unbelievable. Jennifer lies to Danny on two occasions, once when she takes his sperm to the doctor (Donald Moffat) for testing without his permission and then again when she is entertaining offers from Halstrom. There is not enough reason given for either of these deceptions for them to make much sense to us, and so Danny’s anger when he finds out also looks strange, particularly as he has been seeing the architect (though avoiding any sexual entanglement) on the sly. “You didn’t have to lie to me, Jennifer,” says reproachful Danny. “I love you enough to handle the truth, whatever it is.” But there’s the problem: “the truth” , as it turns out, is not something that requires much handling. So what is all the fuss about?

But the problems with the plot are nothing compared to the problems with the stars. There is simply no other way to say it: Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly are neither attractive enough nor likeable enough for us to care very much what happens to them. They are smug, self-centered yuppies with unremarkable intelligence or wit and bland looks. One cannot imagine anyone lusting after either of them, let alone the stunning Miss Hennessy. Presumably their mutual attraction is accounted for by the fact that they are of the same sub-species, but it remains a mystery why it is that they have this strong desire to reproduce themselves. In short, they are utterly charmless. Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable and Sophia Loren might have brought it off. These two, never.

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