Published September 1, 1999
Love Stinks is a nasty little film but, it might seem, something of a curiosity among recent Hollywood products in being entirely oriented toward the masculine point of view—or at least what people accustomed to the courtship rituals of late-20th century America will regard as such. For in truth, however revolting the male habit of regarding the females who interest him as disposable once they have served their sexual purpose, women’s desire to be more like men has fostered and encouraged it. Back in the days when men at least had to pretend to respect women and treat them as human creatures worthy of consideration apart from their appeal to the rough and clamorous masculine appetite, a movie like this one could hardly have been made.
The story concerns a television producer called Seth Winnick (French Stewart) who meets Chelsea Turner (Bridgette Wilson), a stunning young woman with marriage on her mind at the wedding of a friend. For some reason, Chelsea decides that the obviously slimy Seth is just what she has been looking for in a husband and succeeds in inveigling herself into his bed and, in no time at all, into his home as live-in partner. Beyond this point, however, Seth is unwilling to go, and Chelsea is forced (or so we are asked to believe) to get tough with him in the pursuit of the ring and the long-term commitment which she inexplicably supposes her services to Seth should entitle her to—the witch! “What are you saying?” he asks. “Marry me or it’s over?” Surely she couldn’t be so unreasonable as that!
Here is where credulity breaks down. For this movie is exactly like its hero and many another male low-life in not knowing that it is a low-life. In fact, both think of themselves as devilishly attractive if not irresistible. But for anyone with a juster appraisal than Seth’s of Seth’s attractiveness, it beggars belief that a woman with the sort of life chances likely to be available to someone who looks like Chelsea would demean herself in the way that she does in order to induce a jerk like Seth to marry her. Men who expect to be able to enjoy no-fault sex with beautiful women, who then proceed to treat the liaison as casually as they do, may be horrified as well as amused by what they see in a movie like this, and of course they will cheer when Seth is allowed to take a cruel revenge on his erstwhile lover.
O tempora! O mores! Those less inclined than I to brood over the question of where our late-century sexual freedom might be taking us may well find parts of this very unpleasant little movie funny. When Chelsea hits Seth with a palimony suit, he says to his lawyer: “Hundreds of thousands it will cost? Just to get rid of my girlfriend? Can’t I just kill her and get off? This is L.A..” But, ever the optimist, I persist in thinking that even in our degenerate age most men of feeling and all but the most hard-line feminists will be revolted at this celebration of male caddishness.