There is no question that Elizabeth Banks is a talented actress. She has spent years moving back and forth between comedy and drama playing solid supporting roles, adding a certain entertaining spark to all of her scenes. Her talent and charisma demonstrated over the years suggest that she would make a fine leading actress who can carry her own features. It’s just unfortunate that potential leg of her career is starting Steven Brill’s Walk of Shame.
In the movie, Banks stars as Meghan Miles, a self-professed “good girl” journalist who begins the story up for her dream job as network anchor. Unfortunately, this opportunity is taken away when the executives decide to go with someone else, and the bad news is only compounded by news that her fiancé is dumping her. Wanting to forget her troubles, Meghan puts on a revealing dress and heads to a bar with her two friends (Gillian Jacobs, Sarah Wright) and winds up having a one night stand with the bartender, Gordon (James Marsden).
Early the next morning – while Meghan is quietly trying to sneak out of Gordon’s apartment – things seem like their starting to turn around, as she gets a voicemail from her producer (Willie Garson) that the network is giving her another shot. Right after getting this news, however, she manages to lock herself out of Gordon’s apartment and discovers that her purse is in her car, which has just been towed away. With the clock ticking, Meghan must find a way to get to the news station before her chance at her dream job disappears.
Comedies are meant to get a little bit of leeway when it comes to realism, as sometimes filmmakers have to bend universal rules to make something funny, but it’s rather frustrating when what’s supposed to be an intelligent protagonist keeps making incredibly stupid, illogical decisions. Even ignoring the giant plot problems - like the fact that Meghan’s first instinct is to go get her car at a mystery tow place instead of going to a friend’s house, or that it ultimately takes her about 10 hours to travel a grand total of six miles – you’re still left with a protagonist who makes the wrong decisions at every possible turn (of all the people walking around, you’re going to ask the crack dealer for his cellphone? Just because one store owner recognizes that you’re a news anchor means that you don’t ask anyone else for help?)
This kind of plot would work if it were functioning with an idiot main character, but the limited depth that the Walk of Shame script actually provides for Meghan’s character does the complete opposite. We are introduced to Meghan as a competent reporter who seems to have her head on straight and, as mentioned, is constantly referred to as a “good girl” (by herself and others). This fits the character because it actually makes the audience hope that she is able to achieve her goals and get the job she deserves, but then is totally undercut by her wrongheaded decisions. Steven Brill’s script tries to have its cake and eat it too, and the result is a total mess.
Frustrating audiences with bad plots and characters is not typically the best gateway to laughs, but Walk of Shame does have its bright spots and good jokes. A quick stint in a crack den where Meghan is paired with a trio of strangely helpful drug dealers/junkies (Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Da'Vone McDonald, Alphonso McAuley) has some pretty funny results and Banks is affable and likable as always. Not much can be said for the rest of the movie, which also happens to waste a good amount of talent on bit parts and poor dialogue. Most of the gags really aren’t funny and are generally crude just for the sake of being crude, but the fact that some moments actually resulted in a good chuckle was such a surprise that it deserves mention.
Female-driven, R-rated comedies are definitely something we should see more of in Hollywood, but Walk of Shame really only hurts that cause. Ripe for comedy as the central premise is, the whole film is built on a script that should have been thoroughly treated with a red pen before going into production. As we enter into the summer season there will be plenty of adults-only laughs to be had, so you can save your money on this one.