Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston co-star in a romantic comedy dedicated to the proposition that opposites attract and can find love against all odds. Alan Silverman has a look at Along Came Polly.
The quirky love story of Ruben and Polly starts out when Ruben, played by Ben Stiller, marries someone else: Lisa, played by Debra Messing. Before they can live happily ever after in fact, before they get through their Caribbean honeymoon Ruben finds her wrapped in the arms of a muscular scuba instructor.
Actually, it is exactly what it looks like and Ruben returns home to New York depressed and dejected, which is when Jennifer Aniston as free-spirited Polly comes into his neatly ordered life.
Aniston, best known for playing Rachel on the long-running TV hit Friends, says she likes a little more order in her life than Polly has.
"I am pretty controlled," says Aniston. "There are aspects of Polly that are similar to me in terms of indecision and commitment, but I'm trying to think of the last time I said 'what the hell' and did something crazy."
Stiller also says he is not very much like repressed Ruben in real life; but he does think the on-screen chemistry works with Aniston and he says that is something which you just have to let happen for the comedy to work.
"I don't think about it. You hope that at the end of the day there's something there that works with the two people so it's fun to watch them together and you believe them as two people who would be in a couple or are just fun to watch," Stiller says. "But you can't really go for that result. There's nothing you can do about it. I knew that we both enjoyed each other's company and laughed at each other and had fun working together, but in terms of how that translates to what people are watching on the screen, it's like anything else with what you're doing as an actor. I don't think you can be thinking about that because you can't control it and it's something you can't force. I think you just have to hope that it's there and that the director is aware, watching what's going on and trying to foster whatever there is between the two actors while it's happening."
The director is John Hamburg, who has worked with Stiller before as co-writer of Zoolander and the blockbuster hit Meet The Parents.
"I think Ben just knows that we both want it to be really good and he knows I'm looking out for him, so I'm not going to do something that is going to make him look stupid or that he's doing for no reason," she says. "All of us want the same thing: for the movie to be good and the scene to be right."
Often, that involves putting the star in the most awkward, embarrassing predicaments imaginable and, what might politely be termed 'intestinal humor;' but Hamburg defends those low jokes which are almost always guaranteed a laugh.
"People experience these things in life; they experience uncomfortable, embarrassing situations. It's not gratuitous. I don't think it's there to be in a 'teen movie' kind of thing," he says. "This is set up. Ben's character has a stomach problem, which we describe and it's a real problem. He's on a date with this woman who he thinks he wants to spend the rest of his life with; and what's the worst thing that can happen? Something that happens to people in everyday life. It's just another scene for me. I understand that there are people who go 'it's a bathroom, I don't want to hear about that. I respect that, but I also think it's a human moment and all I'm trying to do is take human moments and blow them up a little bit."
Does Stiller ever feel ashamed to do the things screenwriters seem to love having him do?
"I am embarrassed," he admits. "I take it on a case by case basis with each project and we'll have discussions about scenes like that, which are sometimes difficult for me, personally, to approach. We talk about it and figure out what's right for the movie and what's worth it. Usually the discussion is 'well, we'll try it and if it doesn't work it won't be in the movie. Then it's always in the movie."
Along Came Polly also features Hank Azaria, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Alec Baldwin.