If there was a recipe book for the modern romantic comedy, it would undoubtedly include a checklist of the following: group of girlfriends in their late twenties/early thirties with neurotic ideologies revolving around dating and clothes, a writer’s quota of at least one catch phrase per scene, product placement, and the charming leading man. Maneater receives checks across the board, and so much more.
Based on the novel of the same name by Gigi Levangie Grazer, Maneater is a two-part Lifetime movie that follows vapid Hollywood socialite Clarissa Alpert (Sarah Chalke) on her search for a wealthy man to secure her future. She’s gone through the ringer of one-night stands—a reaction to, what else, her daddy issues—and decides to plan her own wedding without even having a groom. Never mind that minor technicality, because through a little coercion and scheming, Clarissa manages to woo up-and-coming film producer, Aaron Mason (Philip Winchester) into marrying her within a matter of weeks.
Everything starts to spiral out of control from there. After a drunken night with her sleazy ex-boyfriend Simon (Paul Leyden) Clarissa is determined to put it behind her and continue her engagement. But things become complicated a few months later, and she begins to question her relationship with Aaron. Her friends are far too concerned with their own lives to offer any valuable advice, and her parents (Chasing Papi’s Maria Conchita Alonso and Trapper John, M.D.’s Gregory Harrison) decide it’s time to let their daughter grow up and be an adult.
Sarah Chalke is normally an enjoyable comedic actress to watch. She’s seen great success in recent years with her roles in Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother, but when you have characters saying things like “Prison is the new fat farm” and “Crazy is the new sexy” it’s hard to take them seriously when they frequently burst into tears. Clarissa is completely dependent on everyone else in her life—especially the men—and it’s aggravating to watch her mope about the screen waiting for a man to fix her problems.
After a series of plot twists that could’ve been left out and drastically reduced the running time, Clarissa decides to try things on her own. She moves into an apartment she can afford and makes a few new friends from the local women’s shelter. She essentially becomes a normal person. That doesn’t seem to rub off on her friends, however, who are still as shallow as they were in the first hour of this nearly three hour movie.
Without divulging too much, there’s a plot twist in the last twenty minutes of the movie that would’ve been more effective had it been moved to the middle. Instead it feels like it was thrown in at the last minute to stir up some tears. It didn’t work. By that point, these characters had acted so irrationally and garnered so little empathy that I didn’t really care what happened to them.
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio 1.78:1. The color is pretty vivid and visually appealing, which helps keep the myriad of wardrobe changes looking fresh. Black levels are rarely put to the test, but decent.
Maneater is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound with English and Portuguese options in language and subtitles. The dialog is always front and center, allowing you to either laugh or cringe at each snarky comment the characters can offer. The soundtrack is a mix of thumping club hoppers, an overabundance of speaker-spanning string arrangements, and the occasional sentimental song selection from mellow artists like Norah Jones and Ray LaMontagne.
There are no special features included.
With a film like Maneater—and Sarah Chalke as the lead—you’d expect the main character to be an independent, headstrong woman. Instead, you get an emotionally challenged woman desperately trying to get a happy ending by whatever means possible. There are the occasional moments of comic relief due largely to Chalke’s comedic timing, but they’re far and few between. The film could’ve overcome the dreadful dialog and redeemed itself in the second half if the characters actually developed and the story didn’t use plot twists to keep the story moving along. Maneater is more guilty than guilt-free.