Walk of Shame is a romantic comedy for the millennial era; it's got the quaint sun-tanned mischief of a golden age romcom but with the traditional wedding replaced by an upbeat commitment to reject all social and communal expectations and figure this weird thing called life out together, maybe, if it works out.
It's about a saintly news anchor (Elizabeth Banks) who is being looked at by the networks for a shiny new job. But on the day before an important performance review, she gets drunk and has a one night stand with a smarmy bartender (James Marsden). When she tries to escape his apartment in the middle of the night, she accidentally finds herself without a cell phone or wallet and with an urgent need not to be late for work. Boom! It's a movie.
This is not a movie with an ensemble cast"”it needs a strong actress to carry the day. And Elizabeth Banks is great. Many of us first fell in love with seeing her recurring role as Avery, the only female match for Jack Donaghey on 30 Rock. She is extremely classy"”nice and polite in an aristocratic way. She has not-quite-effortless grace, grace with some Jennifer Lawrence-like endearing earthy clumsiness. If she were a necktie (God knows why she would, but hear me out), she'd be Cate Blanchett with Pamela Anderson polka dots.
And the leading man?
James Marsden is the consummate "nice guy." He is an Incubro, a demon of seduction in the form most palatable to the modern upper-middle-class twenty-something. Just like the character he played on 30 Rock, he's good looking and charming and affable and smart. He works as a bartender but really wants to write postmodern romance novels. He has a Critical Companion to Feminist Literature prominently displayed on his bookshelf. He will have a one night stand with a drunken woman"”but catch up to her level of drunkenness so it's all legit. (This attempt to avoid the issue of creepiness comes across as a bit strained. It is.) But after the one night stand, he'll be in love enough to search the city for her and rescue her, being the knight in shining armor but only as an occasional adorable lark, with no danger of real violence.
It's an absolutely unique style of love interest, and there's many a "thinkpiece" to be written about it. But suffice it to say that if it's a role that's needed, few would play it better than Marsden.
The comedy in this movie works. For example, the "ghetto characters" trope, which by all rights shouldn't work here/anymore ever, does. Credit must go to the great timing of actors Lawrence Gilliard Jr, Alphonso McAuley, and Da'Vonne McDonald as Scrilla, Pookie, and Hulk respectively. Especially booming shout out goes to Pookie.
One note: the central conceit of the movie"”a series of increasingly gawd-awful events"”requires a certain suspension of disbelief. If writer-director Steven Brill had worried that the audience might not buy that a woman who went to graduate school wouldn't have been able to handle getting locked out of an apartment without ending up in the middle of a drug war, he
might have closed a few holes in the script. But he didn't worry about that, and I'm sure he was right not to.
If you're the type of person who would consider going to see this movie, then know for sure you'll have fun. It's not one of the all-time greats (hence the B, I'm trying to combat grade inflation here, people), but it's a date night movie that won't turn you into a 2012 Rust Cohle.