Hello Ladies the series was an almost brilliant, slightly inconsistent piece of television. Hello Ladies: The Movie is an almost brilliant, relatively consistent cable television romantic comedy. Both will be missed greatly, especially when someone tries the same concept within the next five years or so, only without the boss ’80s soundtrack.
Hello Ladies the series wasn’t a ratings juggernaut (or even a ratings strongman), so there’s a chance that those watching the movie won’t have seen the original show. Based on Stephen Merchant’s stand-up comedy, Hello Ladies follows him in the role of Stuart Pritchard, a wiry Brit who’s looking for his soul mate in the home of flash and very little substance: Los Angeles. His search is often thwarted by his own “need” to date women who would be considered out of his league on a physical level and his ability to turn any situation into a game of awkward chess. He also has two of the worst wingmen ever in sadsack, newly divorced Wade (Nate Torrence) and obscene, wheelchair-bound (yet every bit the ladies’ man Stuart is not) Kives (Kevin Weisman). To round out the cast is Christine Woods as struggling actress Jessica Vanderhoff, who can’t seem to catch a break, even with a last name like Vanderhoff and an “it’s complicated” relationship with her agent, Glenn (Sean Wing).
Hello Ladies: The Movie opens at Jessica’s 30th birthday party, and nothing has really changed for her or Stuart since the show ended. She’s still going through fruitless and degrading auditions for nothing parts while her peers are getting huge roles or starting families, and he’s still trying those tired pick-up lines that no one would ever consider the beginning of an epic love story.
That’s when Stuart gets the phone call that finally “explains” all of his behavior. It’s a call from his former love, the one he thought was “the one,” the one who broke his heart and left him for another, much more Glenn-like guy. It’s a reminder to him that he’s never been one of the “cool kids,” and for that, he overcompensates in order to prove that he can be just like them. If there’s one major difference between the series and movie, it’s that in the latter there’s no more time to dance around the fact that there’s a very obvious reason why Stuart is the way he is—needy and a little obsessed. All the cards are on the table now, in a way that isn’t necessarily spoon-feeding it to the audience but acts as a reminder that this is it. This is the final chapter.
Hello Ladies the series treaded the very fine line of Stuart being a legitimately nice guy looking for love and being a shallow nice guy looking for status. The show doesn’t always paint him in the positive light, but there’s still the very important fact that beneath all of the awkward bravado and obliviousness, Stuart is a good guy with good intentions. He isn’t vindictive, nor does he think that he’s entitled to these women. He simply has trouble at times reconciling that the life of a pick-up artist isn’t the one that will include a happy-in-love ending. Hello Ladies: The Movie isn’t Entourage: The Movie with a lanky Brit (even if Stephen Tobolowsky’s character here may want it to be), all about the lead getting to bang as many hot chicks as possible. If Hello Ladies is a series about Stuart burying his head in the sand (under the belief that it’s in the clouds), Hello Ladies: The Movie is all about digging it out.
So when Jessica finally tells Stuart, point blank, why his life isn’t lining up to be what he wants it to be, it’s the most honest and painful moment in the movie. But it’s so very necessary. It’s what he needed to hear all season, but he wasn’t at that point to listen at the time. The movie gets him to that point, and it’s the type of closure the story needs.
However, it’s not all romantic comedy bullet points and introspection. Hello Ladies: The Movie is still able to nail the deliriously awkward humor and the desolation of these characters living in this land of flashing lights. In addition to Stephen Tobolowsky’s blowhard Entourage transplant character, Ryan Hansen makes a brief appearance as a pitch-perfect example of the horrors of getting back into dating. There’s also a brilliant cameo from Nicole Kidman, in a scene that embodies the awkwardness that Stephen Merchant and co-writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg pride themselves in. The world in which these characters live is still as glitzy and glamorous as ever, only now, they’re realizing that it’s not what they need.
This is very much Stuart and Jessica’s movie—the latter finally gets the fist-pumping moments she deserved in the actual show here. Kives is even less of an entity in this movie than he was in the show’s run, and Wade is simply around so the poor guy finally gets a happy ending. Rory’s role remains the same small bit, but Kyle Mooney as the enthusiastic youngster is good to lighten every scene is appears in. Glenn remains Glenn.
As a romantic comedy that stands on its own, Hello Ladies: The Movie hits every objective. It’s a structurally sound movie, which may sound like an insult but simply means that it’s not just a stretched out episode of Hello Ladies. Merchant and Woods have excellent friend chemistry, but their characters as a potential romantic pairing was always bubbling under the surface in the series. The will-they/won’t-they aspect ends in the film, and as telegraphed as it may be, that doesn’t make it feel any less like a success. The movie is perfect for newcomers to watch without having to watch the original series. In fact, it might help bring in a new audience for the show, especially those turned off by the presumed “pick-up artist” aspect of the series. Farewell, Hello Ladies.