A decade ago, anthems like Beck’s “Loser” and “Creep” by Radiohead channelled self-loathing into cathartic indie rock. It took a while, but self-loathing gradually filtered through to the pop cultural mainstream as an attention-grabbing exercise in advertising, stand-up comedy and documentary filmmaking. Here, filmmaker/star Chris Waitt produces what is either a painfully honest odyssey through his history of bad relationships, or a cynical attempt to re-edit his past into a Ben Stiller movie.
Troubled at being single, aging and out of shape (but mostly single), Waitt resolves to track down his old girlfriends and find out why they dumped him, and what he can do to find love again. What follows is an intentionally cringe-inducing series of encounters with women who are understandably reluctant, suspicious or hostile; including a now-happily married old-flame who recalls Waitt making a pass at her mother; a novelist who was inspired to write him a gory death in her latest work; and most memorably, a girl who loathes him so vehemently she only consents to be interviewed from behind a curtain whilst typing text on a computer that speaks for her.
Waitt has done pretty well in the dating game, landing a succession of smart, attractive women, yet seems to have continuously blown it. His embarrassing confessional behaviour scares off a promising blind date and a pretty model reveals Waitt’s inability to achieve an erection inspired her to exclusively date Asian men. To his credit, Waitt is game enough to air all his failings in minute detail, yet his irritatingly faux naïve persona (familiar to fans of Louis Theroux) renders this a prolonged ritual of self-humiliation instead of a genuinely insightful documentary.
Many of these slapstick moments feel contrived including a visit to the site of his erectile dysfunction with ex-girlfriend and hotel receptionist in tow; crooning a self-penned ditty titled “I’d Like to F*** Every Girl in the World” to his stony-faced female psychotherapist; and a supposedly helpful encounter with an S&M dominatrix named Mistress Maisie, wherein Waitt’s manhood takes a battering in full-frontal detail. Midway, film lurches into a paean to his erectile dysfunction, which features more full-frontal shots (yippee…) and a sequence where Waitt overdoses on Viagra and asks random women on the street to have sex with him, before being hauled off by the police. While it would be churlish to criticise such scenes for being entertaining, frankly Waitt often seems to be taking the piss.
Only a poignant encounter with the newly-pregnant love of his life, Vicky and a sagely coda with his mum (with his infant niece playing in the background as a nicely ironic counterpart) provide the necessary emotional payoff to lift this above the self-indulgent. When Waitt weeps we finally sense a real human being beneath the cartoon. Whether he really has learned a lesson is anyone’s guess, but the film delivers an almost rom-com conclusion as Waitt finds hope in the arms of an attractive Russian journalist, whose similarly dysfunctional past includes a lesbian relationship. Which, if nothing else, proves God has a warped sense of humour.