Approximately one million years ago — fine, it was February, but it seems a lifetime ago — the execrable “Fantasy Island” hit theaters, and within minutes it was obvious we had a contender for Worst Movie of 2020.
The only shining light in the muddled mess was Lucy Hale, the former “Pretty Little Liars” star who always brings a certain screen-popping charm to her movie roles, even in dreck such as “Fantasy Island” or serviceable horror films such as “Truth or Dare?”
In the bland and outdated and curiously tame would-be sex rom-com “A Nice Girl Like You,” Hale once again tries her gosh-darndest to sell the material — but even though this toothless yawner is based on a real-life memoir, every single frame feels artificial and forced, from the moment we hear a knockoff version of “That’s Life” on the soundtrack and Hale’s Lucy (yes, Lucy Hale is playing a woman named Lucy) goes shopping, and the cliché loaf of French bread juts out from the paper bag.
“A Nice Girl Like You” is set in present day but has the giggling, leering, naughty-but-not-really-naughty vibe of a putatively titillating sex comedy from the mid-1960s like “Don’t Make Waves” or “Sex and the Single Girl.”
Lucy is a 30ish violinist with a chipper if uptight personality and a penchant for making lists about everything. After a joyless bout of sex with her boyfriend Jeff (Stephen Friedrich) during which Lucy keeps her pajamas on and exclaims “Wheat-free waffles!” because she KNEW she forgot something when she was shopping, Lucy discovers Jeff has been viewing porn (SHOCKER!). Jeff accuses Lucy of being “pornophobic,” and they break up — and Lucy decides she needs to be more open sexually. She makes a “Sex To-Do List” and vows to have the following experiences, among others (cue Lucy’s voiceover):
“Watch 25 porn films. Go to a sex store. Visit strip club. Sex toy party. Consult a sex expert. Brothel, visit. Meet a porn star.”
As Lucy careens from one contrived, relatively tame romp to the next, the film never stops to examine WHY she’s so neurotic, so uncomfortable with expressing herself, so tightly wound.
Making matters less interesting: She keeps running across a handsome and utterly dull Australian fellow named Grant, played by Leonidas Gulaptis as if he’s channeling a Hugh Grant character who has been drained of all appeal.
As for Hale, who keeps trying to pump life into this movie like a paramedic doing CPR, one has to ask: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a film like this?