Hello Ladies: The Movie (2014) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for sexual humor and language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Stephen Merchant, Christine Woods, Nate Torrence, Sean Wing, Stephen Tobolowsky, Heather Moiseve, Kyle Mooney, Stephanie Corneliussen, Crista Flanagan, Kevin Weisman, Allison Tolman
Small role: Vanessa Angel, Nicole Kidman
Director: Stephen Merchant
Screenplay: Lee Eisenberg, Stephen Merchant, Gene Stupnisky
Review published November 25, 2014
Hello Ladies: The Movie is a made-for-HBO feature that serves as a series finale for the TV series, "Hello Ladies", which lasted one season (eight episodes, in all) on the premium channel. It follows the further exploits of 30-something bachelor Stuart Pritchard, portrayed by 6-foot-7 and lanky British comedian Stephen Merchant (I Give It a Year, Hall Pass), who is busy trying to "get busy" as an English transplant in glitzy Los Angeles, always trying to find an angle on how to meet more women in town, preferably supermodels, who almost unanimously won't give him the time of day. He's platonic housemates with the lovely struggling actress Jessica Vanderhoff (Woods, "FlashForward"), whose prospects on getting a regular acting job seem as elusive as Stuart finding a steady girlfriend.
The movie finds Jessica celebrating her 30th birthday at a hip local club, while Stuart and best bud Wade (Torrence, Bruce & Lloyd Out of Control) proceed to hit on any women they can find. Her career is teetering on bankruptcy, as is her love life with Glenn (Wing, You Again), who seems to be her only 'in' to auditions these days.
Meanwhile, Stuart is doing everything he can to be popular, because being the center of attention puts him in the middle of the action, and that's where all of the prime female prospects are. He'll make a fast friend to give him the opportunity, and isn't afraid to lose one if they're standing in the way, which makes him, ironically, more lonely the more popular he gets. When his finds the ex he hasn't completely gotten over is in town with her new husband who stole her away, he's determined to show her she gave up a great thing, a successful man-about-town, which means he needs to find a hot girlfriend fast to make sure they eat their hearts out. Enter actress Jessica in what could be her final role.
Merchant, who directs and co-scripts, keeps the dialogue loose and highly improvised, similar to the work he contributed to in his series' with frequent collaborator Ricky Gervais, the British version of "The Office" and "Extras". Lots of awkward moments and cringe-worthy insensitivity are on display, as we watch an ignoramus finally become aware of just who and what he is and who and what he wants -- a rare transformation for a character that would have perpetually been stuck in limbo had the series been a success. While, as a film, it's not theater-worthy, there are still some good sitcom laughs to be had, including a hilarious botched sex scene, and a funny cameo by Nicole Kidman (Before I Go to Sleep) playing herself, having to pretend to be Stuart's friend and former lover to help him save face. Series fans will likely consider some of the material in this final episode to be among the best, especially in terms of character growth.
Do you have to watch the TV series in order to enjoy Hello Ladies: The Movie? As someone who did not, I can attest the answer is "no", as it didn't take long for me to understand these characters and their motivations, which is the hallmark of quality writing. Romantic comedy fans should also take note -- it's a decent stand-alone film for genre nuts. It does, however, feel like a lengthy episode of a TV series more so than a movie, which is understandable, but for those who aren't interested in extended cable sitcoms, I merely offer this observation as fair warning. However, if you're a fan, it's a nice capper for a series that probably deserved an ending to these characters you've come to know, albeit briefly, for its brief run on television. Kudos to HBO for letting Merchant give viewers a proper ending to characters he helped create -- it's a nice way to say "goodbye" to "Hello Ladies".
©2014 Vince Leo