“She’s Out of My League” opens with a close-up of Kirk Kettner’s (Jay Baruchel) face as he delivers a well-rehearsed speech to try to get his girlfriend back. As he speaks, the camera pans out to reveal a beautiful backdrop of a green meadow surrounded by trees, adding a certain amount of potence to Kirk’s otherwise pathetic speech. However, as the camera continues to pull back, it becomes evident that Kirk is not in some idyllic mountain location, but is instead simply sitting in front of a billboard at an airport.
Just as the camera reveals that Kirk is sitting on a cheap lawn-chair and not a log or a bench, a plane roars overhead, bringing home the point that this movie is not afraid of trading in subtlety for loud, obvious humor. In fact, the opening scene couldn’t fit the film itself more perfectly. Like Kirk’s billboard, the film sets audiences up for a promising scene, then pulls back to reveal the seams.
The premise of “She’s Out of My League” is an interesting one: a slight variation on the typical boy-meets-girl romantic comedy. But the plotline is a dud, selling out in the end for the formulaic happy ending everyone has seen before.
As the title suggests, the movie follows the underachieving, scrawny, self-conscious Kirk as he dates Molly (Alice Eve) who is everything he is not: successful, beautiful, and confident. Kirk skipped college; Molly has a law degree. Kirk comes from a working-class family; Molly’s background is more affluent.
Yet, for some reason Kirk and his friends cannot figure out, Molly likes him. She asks him on several dates, but neither he nor his friends believe that she could be romantically interested in him. Not even her ex-boyfriend, handsome hockey star Cam (Geoff Stults), even considers the possibility that Kirk is a competitor—he even confuses Kirk for a waiter when he runs into Molly and Kirk at a restaurant. Kirk’s self-confidence issues lead him to drive her away, but not before subjecting himself (and the audience) to a series of almost unbearably awkward situations.
As evident in the first scene, the film works well with its setting, using location to spark ironically amusing dialogue. The airport, where Kirk works as a TSA agent along with his friends, provides a humorous backdrop for their conversations about Kirk’s relationship with Molly; instead of moving the lines through his security check, as a TSA agent, Kirk spends much of his time at work chatting—offering an explanation as to why airport security lines are so long. In another scene, Kirk and his friends go around on an empty baggage carousel as they discuss Kirk’s latest mistake with Molly. The irony of these settings—strange for a heart-felt tête-à-tête—is enjoyable.
The supporting cast also provides humorous lines from time to time, especially Devon, played by Nate Torrence, who supplies the group of Kirk’s friends with naïve, child-like interjections which are so wrong for the situation that one can’t help but laugh. Molly’s friend Patty, played by Krysten Ritter, and Kirk’s friend Stainer (T.J. Miller) also have several comedic—albeit tense—stretches of dialogue.
For the most part, however, the movie is more uncomfortable than funny, though perhaps not in the way that the filmmakers intended. Cringing feels more appropriate than laughing when Kirk makes a fool of himself in front of Molly’s parents, or when he allows Devon to shave his testicles. The entire film circles around this urge to thrust Kirk into as many awkward situations as possible—which is funny at times, but mostly falls flat. With this goal at its center, the film lacks a cohesiveness which makes the ending seem rather like a hasty attempt to tie things together.
Overall, “She’s Out of My League” makes an admirable—if inconsistent—stab at an off-beat variation on the tired romantic comedy template.