What a Man

If your main qualm with the steady stream of disposable romantic comedies is that they’re products of Hollywood rather than Germany, then friend, look no further: Save for its Teutonic origins, director/co-writer/star Matthias Schweighöfer’s What a Man is scarcely distinguishable from the No Strings Attached school of rom-coms. Mostly harmless but also irksome in its bland simplicity, the film follows your average too-nice-for-his-own-good everyman who sets about proving his masculinity after being cheated on by his caricature of a girlfriend. In the process, he spends an impossible-to-believe amount of time either not realizing or not accepting that his closest female friend (Sibel Kekilli) was the real catch all along. (If movie logic didn’t make their inevitable union obvious from the
moment we meet her, then the two flashbacks demonstrating her kindness shoehorned into the first 30 minutes certainly help the process along.) Schweighöfer and Kekilli have some genuine chemistry, but though the first-time filmmaker’s writing and direction are rarely less than competent, they’re also suggest complacency. It’s like he’s spinning his wheels before having won his license. If What a Man serves any real purpose, it’s less to answer the vague rhetorical question implied by its title and more to remind us why most of the foreign films that make it to America are of the art house variety: Imitating generic Hollywood product and then exporting it back to the States tends to provide few rewards for anyone, least of all the audience. Michael Nordine

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