Immature rom-com “A Nice Girl Like You,” about a prudish violinist, Lucy (Lucy Hale), on a quest to loosen up her frigid views on sex means well, I suppose. But it’s woefully, painfully out of touch. The character of Lucy is not a recognizable person but rather a grab bag of extreme clichés sort of patched together to form some kind of human behavior.
At one point, baffled by Lucy’s extremely sex-negative views, I wrote down, “Is she an alien?” because she behaves as if she’s just landed on Earth and heard about this whole human reproduction thing. Or maybe she’s been in a bunker for the last 20 years. That’s why it was a shock to discover the film is based on a real self-help book, “Pornology,” by Ayn Carrillo-Gailey published in 2007.
If the story came from a real person’s experiences, why is Lucy one of the more unbelievable characters in a film in a long time? In Carrillo-Gailey’s book, she sets out to learn all about the world of porn after a boyfriend called her “pornophobic.” The same thing happens to Lucy when she objects to a boyfriend’s casual viewing of online adult material.
But he also happens to object to her wearing long-sleeved flannel pajamas during sex, during which she blurts out grocery list items. Porn isn’t Lucy’s only problem, for sure. The problem with Lucy is of course in the adaptation of the book to the screen, and the script, written by Andrea Marcellus, doesn’t take the time to make Lucy a real flesh-and-blood human being with whom we can empathize.
Instead, Marcellus takes Carrillo-Gailey’s porn-centric to-do list from her book and puts this thinly written character through the motions. Lucy’s to-do list comes in a random, drunken flash of inspiration in the bathroom of a wedding reception where she’s performing with her string quartet. A few drinks is all it takes to get her ready and willing to expand her horizons, and how.
Soon she’s exploring racy adult shops and trying out the wares, taking in the finest adult cinema and attending seminars of all sorts. Every item on the list is, of course, an opportunity for Lucy to humiliate herself and/or charm a handsome Australian man she keeps bumping into, Grant (Leonidas Gulaptis). It wouldn’t be a rom-com without mind-bending coincidence driving the plot.
But the film never delves into the why of it all or any of the emotional aspect of her journey. Why is Lucy so uptight? Her pals in the quartet, Nessa (Jackie Cruz) and Pricilla (a wonderful Mindy Cohn, the star of “The Facts of Life”), are liberated and comfortable in their sexuality, which is why Lucy’s extreme neurosis, and her abrupt swing toward behavior that would make Samantha Jones blush, makes no sense.
And “A Nice Girl Like You” never cares to make any sense of it, relying on tired gags and hackneyed antics. Brothers Chris and Nick Riedell direct “A Nice Girl Like You” serviceably at best. It babbles along, never achieving any remarkable narrative or emotional highs or lows, trafficking in every stale, heteronormative stereotype about men, women and sex, until all the contrived misunderstandings are ironed out, and the heroine gets the guy.
What is remarkable, though, is just how unbelievably unbelievable this inspired-by-true-life tale is.