Elizabeth Banks has had a find career up to this point, generally performing in a secondary, oft comedic role, which she has excelled at. However, with Walk of Shame, she finally gets the chance to carry a comedy by herself in a movie from director and writer Steven Brill, who wrote all three of the Mighty Ducks movies. (Make of that what you will.)
Walk of Shame feels like one of those bawdy female comedies that was pitched in the wake of Bridesmaids, although this is very much a one-woman show, as Banks, as Meghan Miles, is asked to shoulder the load almost by herself. There are plenty of secondary characters in the film, sure, but they are all there to play off of Banks. This is her journey, for better or worse.
Miles is a local Los Angeles newscaster who has a very bad day—her fiancé leaves her and she finds out she isn’t getting the big national news job she wants. Naturally, and to give the movie a driving force, she goes out and gets drunk, and ends up spending the night with a sensitive bartender played by James Marsden, another 30 Rock alumnus. She wakes up in the middle of the night, finds out that, in fact, the national job could be hers, and the executives are coming to watch her. There is only one minor issue. Miles finds herself without her phone, her car, her money, and she is lost all alone in Downtown Los Angeles.
This movie is reminiscent of Smiley Face, and not just because both films star a blonde, conventionally attractive actress. Both films center on a woman journeying all across Los Angeles, featuring a series of run-ins and comedic vignettes and misunderstandings. However, in Smiley Face, Anna Faris plays a super baked woman who brings most of the problems onto herself as she stumbles about getting into mishaps. Banks’ Miles, meanwhile, is well-aware of just what is happening to her, and has a reputation to maintain, not to mention a job to get to.
Smiley Face is a funnier movie, but that isn’t to say that Walk of Shame is without its charms. Banks deserves a chance to front another movie after this, as any failings in the film are not her fault. She can play the range needed, from the kempt, proper newswoman, to the slowly unraveling mess she becomes. The problem is that many of the characters around her are pretty one-dimensional and uninteresting. The film would work better if there were more fun characters for her to play off, and any scene in which Miles isn’t the center of attention—such as when her friends and Marsden’s Gordon meet to track her down—falls flat. Trips to crackhouses and Asian massage parlors don’t exactly bespeak a soft touch when it comes to the comedy either, which can feel clunky and awkward.
That being said, there is enough in the journey, and in the cinematic trip through lesser seen parts of Los Angeles, for the story to have some meat. The ending feels a bit tone-deaf, but the trek to that point has a handful of laughs and humorous moments, not to mention the charms and acting chops of Banks. It may be the second best “woman takes wild, wacky trip across Los Angeles” comedy to come out in the last decade, but it is still a pretty good, pretty funny movie.
Director: Steven Brill
Writer: Steven Brill
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Gillian Jacobs
Release Date:May 2, 2014