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Guys Who Didn’t Get the Girl

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Here’s a tip of the cap to some memorable dudes in movie history who DIDN’T get the girl. Even when they’re bland or banal, they serve a necessary purpose. Without them, where would we get our plot twists and dramatic tension?

OWEN WILSON IN “MEET THE PARENTS”

Threw you a curve there, didn’t I? Wilson usually gets the girl in his films, but I thought he was equally effective in “Meet the Parents,” where he lost out to Ben Stiller. Wilson played it without diminishing his personal charm, which was the key.

RALPH BELLAMY IN “HIS GIRL FRIDAY”

Here’s one from a classic comedy. Bellamy is the earnest, gullible guy set to marry newshound Rosalind Russell. There’s just one problem, and his name is Cary Grant. No contest, obviously, but Bellamy’s timing and manner are a funny contrast to the rest of the fast-talking characters.

BILL PULLMAN IN “SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE”

Pullman’s performance is a smart updating of the Ralph Bellamy model. He’s still earnest and mild mannered, but he maintains a sense of awareness and personal dignity. The allergies were a nice touch.

HUGH GRANT IN “BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY”

Grant seemed to revel in this part, playing the selfish jerk who ends up competing with Colin Firth for Renee Zellweger’s attention. He was great at it, frankly. He had many of the best lines in the movie.

JIMMY STEWART IN “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY”

Truly, one of the very best examples of the guy who didn’t get the girl. In “The Philadelphia Story,” Stewart and Katharine Hepburn are totally incompatible (he’s a working class reporter and she’s a wealthy society woman), yet they get some of the coziest, wittiest, most flirtatious scenes you’ll find in any movie. If it weren’t for Cary Grant (him again!), the result might have been different.

ERIQ LA SALLE IN “COMING TO AMERICA”

What’s great about La Salle in “Coming to America” is that he offered himself up for scorn in every way, from his hairstyle to his arrogance to his poor treatment of Shari Headley. He made Eddie Murphy look gooooood.

TIM ROBBINS IN “HIGH FIDELITY”

Similarly, Tim Robbins is a real pantload in “High Fidelity.” So self-righteous. So condescending. The world, as presented in this movie, cannot be operating correctly as long as John Cusack is losing out to this doofus. Nicely done, Mr. Robbins.

JOHN WAYNE IN “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE”

It’s not a misprint. John Wayne actually comes in second in “Liberty Valance” – to Jimmy Stewart, no less. The lovely Vera Miles has a choice between a rugged individualist (Wayne) and an idealist with a social conscience (Stewart). Something really interesting here is that director John Ford allows for the notion that Vera might have made the wrong choice.

GREG KINNEAR IN “YOU’VE GOT MAIL”

Excellent work by Kinnear, playing a slightly pompous columnist who ultimately can’t compete against Tom Hanks in the Meg Ryan Sweep-Her-Off-Her-Feet-Stakes. I think Kinnear’s intelligence and humor are better suited to roles like this than when he plays the leading man.

WENDELL COREY IN “HOLIDAY AFFAIR”

This isn’t a well-known movie, but I wanted to include it because Corey is a very specific type of “guy who didn’t get the girl.” He has the thankless job of being the character the leading lady has to settle for until she meets … Robert Mitchum. Corey has no shot here. The audience knows it; even he knows it. But he gamely soldiers on until a few minutes before the closing credits.

PATRICK WILSON IN “THE SWITCH”

Wilson gives his character some interesting twists in “The Switch.” He’s honorable, vulnerable and loyal, which is just the type of guy Jennifer Aniston is looking for. At the same time, he’s an emotional basket case. Jason Bateman does him a huge favor by stepping in and taking charge of the situation.

HUMPHREY BOGART IN “CASABLANCA”

There’s only one way to close-out  this List. Bogart’s Rick is a one-of-a-kind, iconic character. He’s full of pain, anger and stoicism. He actually chooses not to get the girl, Ingrid Bergman, out of a sense of nobility. And that choice gives us one of the best movie endings ever.

So who are YOUR favorites?