Something made me think of Anna Faris today. Actually, she is never too far from my thoughts as I am a huge fan of the show that made her ex-husband, Chris Pratt, a star, Parks and Recreation (2009-2015). I see him and sometimes think what a shame it is that their relationship ended. Whatever it was that specifically brought Faris to mind, I was reminded of a film of hers that I enjoy, What’s Your Number? (2011). When I do these introductions, I try to give you a window into why I choose the films I watch. With the subject matter in the movie, I would rather leave some details private. You can make any assumption you like based on that information and this review. Nevertheless, I feel there is an important lesson in this film, even if it is wrapped (as so many of these things are) in layers of unnecessary material.
If there is something faintly familiar about a title like What’s Your Number?, it is because it is meant to directly speak to the kind of personality quizzes that line the pages of lifestyle magazines. Like many women, Ally Darling (Anna Faris) reads them and puts stock into what they might reveal about her character. She begins the proceedings waking up next to a guy, Rick (Zachary Quinto), who is not interested in a serious relationship. This comes out when she asks him to go as her date to her sister Daisy Anne’s (Ari Graynor) upcoming wedding. His hesitation is all she needs to unceremoniously escort him out the door. In doing so, Ally encounters her neighbor across the hall, Colin Shea (Chris Evans), a struggling musician who has a different woman in his apartment every night. With the goodbyes said, she heads to work, only to be called into her boss Roger’s (Joel McHale) office and be fired. It is while riding the subway home that she reads the title article. In it, the author claims that the national average for the number of sexual partners for your typical American woman is 10.5. She is pushing twenty. This is concerning for her because the story also claims that those who have slept with that many people have trouble finding a spouse. With her younger sister getting married, the pressure is on for her to get her own husband. At Daisy’s bachelorette party, Ally makes a vow that the next person she sleeps with will be the one. Unfortunately, the subsequent heavy drinking results in her waking up the next morning in bed with Roger, who happened to be at the same bar the previous night. He is rather keen on stretching out the morning, but she wants nothing to do with him. She is saved by Colin, who emerges from his own apartment, knocks on Ally’s door, recognizes the predicament she is in, and makes up an excuse for her not to continue hanging out with Roger. In the wake of Roger’s departure, while cake tasting with Daisy, she encounters a guy she used to refer to as Disgusting Donald (Chris Pratt). He no longer lives up to that nickname, and his current good looks give her an idea: thinking that some of the other guys she has dated might have cleaned up since their last encounter, she will track down each one until she finds the right one. The problem, though, is that her sleuthing skills are not the best, and a night when she falls asleep at the computer keyboard results in nothing but a key pattern imprinted into the side of her face. This is when Colin comes in, once more hiding from a fling. Because his father had been a private investigator and taught him many tricks of the trade, he agrees to help her locate these guys in exchange for using her flat as a hideout. I am not going to get into all the men that we see her reconnect with because that would be tedious. They are also not important, other than the comedic value they offer. The crucial matter is that in the process of helping Ally, Colin begins to fall in love with her. Such are the feelings he develops for her that he decides to not give her the number of the one guy she most wanted to learn about: Jake Adams (Dave Annable). He had been a difficult case because his family is rich, and he had been out of the country for a long time. Yet, after an especially disastrous assignation with a previous flame, who turns out to be gay, Colin cheers her up with a night of playing, er, basketball (there is a more specific thing they do that I would rather not get into, but is not entirely sexual) in the Boston Garden, Colin admits that he has feelings for her. They end up back at her place and events start heading towards the naughty until she stops him and they end up falling asleep next to each other. The following day finds her helping Daisy choose flowers and place settings, and talking about Colin as a potential boyfriend, which shocks Daisy. Her reaction, paired with Ally discovering that Colin had found Jake some time ago, leads to her angrily telling Colin to leave. He still gives her Jake’s contact information, and they go out a few times. Everything is going swimmingly until her father, Mr. Darling (Ed Begley Jr.), reminds her that she is not living her life as she wants. What Ally truly desires is to make a career out of the clay sculptures she enjoys producing, a hobby Colin fully supports. Thus emboldened, she breaks things off, leaves Daisy’s reception, and combs the greater Boston area looking for the wedding at which Colin’s band is playing. Of course, she eventually finds and crashes it, and the rest is happily ever after.
The final thing you hear in What’s Your Number? is a message on Ally’s phone from a past one night stand claiming they never had sex. This is good news for her because it means that she does not go over the arbitrary limit of sexual partners of twenty. A more secular lesson from all this would be the double standard that exists that says men should be celebrated for sleeping with as many women as possible, whereas a woman being that sexually active is considered a whore. I do not support double standards of any kind, including this one. However, my Faith informs my opinion here, as with all matters. Sexuality and faith is a tricky topic, although it should not be. If you ever want a great treatise on the subject, read Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (2014) by Arleen Spenceley. I am not here to rehash her wonderful book, but it will tell you definitively how wrong headed most people think are the opinions of Christians and Catholics on the subject. The problem is with dabbling in pre-marital sex in the first place, and there is a revealing line in the movie that says for a woman desiring marriage, having too many partners is damaging to her confidence. Another aspect of this is the pressure many Christians put on themselves with this topic, both before the act and after if outside the confines of marriage. Society makes pre-marital sex a difficult subject to avoid. I am also not advocating that it should be avoided, but rather that I prefer it framed with the teachings found in Theology of the Body, for example. My main concern, given the material in the movie, is after the fact. In Matthew, Jesus’ disciples ask Him how many times they should forgive someone’s sin. Jesus comes up with a number that seems specific, but is meant to represent the infinite forgiveness God has for all of us. To be clear, one sex is something that should be saved for a husband and wife, but that is a different discussion. For now, if I had Ally here in front of me, I would remind her that God’s love trumps the amount of times she has had sex. This is an important hurdle for some, and sadly leads to many leaving the Faith.
Aside from the important lessons found in What’s Your Number?, it is also fun to see the number of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) actors that are in it. Other than that, the film deals with raunchiness without being vulgar. There is no nudity, but it rides a line that is sometimes too close for comfort. It is a fine movie to watch for adults because it is tame by some standards these days.