Likeability and relatability are not the end-all measures of what makes for a good protagonist, nor should they be. Many of fiction’s greatest protagonists are conflicted, complicated messes that are engaging not because we are meant to empathize with them but because their perspective is meant to be so divorced from our own. However, there sometimes come along films like Lady-Like, which sits at the uncomfortable intersection of presenting us with shallow, unlikeable characters and expecting us to root for them through a series of banal and trope-trodden events. I’m left unclear whether or not I’m supposed to like these ladies, but I know for certain that their charms were completely lost on me.
A couple of gal pals, Allie (Stephanie Simbari) and Kort (Allie Gallerani), are starting a new year of college when Kort meets a guy who may just be her soul mate. After a first act that takes up the entire first half of the film in which the energetic Allie pushes the more introverted Kort to make advances and maximize her strategy for attracting her mate, Allie finds herself feeling neglected by her best friend as Kort spends all her time with her new boy. This somehow leads to a revelation that Allie needs to abandon her slacker lifestyle and become a more responsible adult—with the implied reward that she’ll get her own man in the process—but I’d be hard pressed to tell you how her jealousy ultimately influences her to better herself.
Bizarre pacing and nonsensical moralizing aside, Allie and Kort are just tediously obnoxious leads. Allie in particular is rude, inconsiderate, and pushy, while both women are constantly insulting each other under the pretense of playful banter. These are traits that more talented writers and directors could convey as comically endearing, but writer-director Brent Craft has confused wanton vulgarity and uncreative insults for actual joke-telling. There’s no sense of laugh-inducing surprise as these self-important cardboard cutouts lob the word “bitch” back and forth with self-effacing smiles, with no editing or timing to make their dynamic relatable or their friendship even believable.
This is only exacerbated by a supporting cast of fellow housemates that are somehow even more ill-conceived than the protagonists, including a woman whose sole defining characteristic is that she’s obsessed with a true-crime podcast and another who repeatedly fesses up to having sexual dreams about Kort’s date. Again, these aren’t inherently funny situations, and they aren’t presented in such a way as to set up a punchline. Every character, particularly the women, just behaves like a shallow idiot with no dimensionality beyond what Brent Craft hopes is funny in a given moment.
There is almost nothing to recommend about Lady-Like. When not mad at the characters for their obnoxious behavior, I was absolutely bored with how ineffective the plot or dialogue were at engaging me. This is clearly born of an outside and uninformed perspective on how women actually treat one another, boiling them down to a series of tropes and clichés that would feel purposely insulting were they not clearly trying to vie for our affection. This is barely even a movie, comedy or otherwise.