Enter, in short order, Hitch’s perfect foil: a single woman who insists on being at once sexually desirable and uninterested in romance. Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) is a gossip columnist for a New York Post-esque newspaper. She is a workaholic. She is fine with that. The film is not. Her relationship with Hitch plays out like this: After the two enjoy and/or endure a meet-cute at a bar (Hitch-induced, obviously), Sara tells Hitch never to call her. He sends her a walkie-talkie instead. During that call (not technically a phone call, as he is—liking women as well as loving them—respecting her wishes), she says no to dinner. He persists. If not Friday, then how about Saturday? No again. He persists some more. Finally, she agrees—very reluctantly—to a Sunday-morning date.
Did I mention that she is reluctant? She really, really is. Yet she is also, we are meant to understand, reluctantly charmed. What persistence! What a compliment!
So the Date Doctor gets his date. But the, well, hitch in his plan, irony and rom-coms being what they are, is a series of unfortunate events, all of them made funny by the fact that they’re happening to—and in spite of—the romance consultant. Hitch takes Sara on an elaborate jet-skiing date, and ends up kicking her—unintentionally, awkwardly—in the head. He takes her on a private tour of Ellis Island, where he shows her the signature of her great-great-great grandfather. Who ends up being a murderer nicknamed “the Butcher of Cadiz.” He takes her to a cooking class, and ends up having an allergic reaction to the mussels—resulting in perhaps the longest hive-related gag in all of Hollywood history.
Let’s skip ahead to the unsurprising outcome of all this, which is that Sara and Hitch, helped along by their mutual hotness and some generous doses of Benadryl, end up falling in love. Which is in some ways as sweet as it is inevitable. It’s refreshing, in this age of Love Actually earnestness, to see a romantic comedy that so insistently pairs the “com” with the “rom.” Hitch is funny, and not just because it contains an obligatory depiction of a doughy dude getting his back waxed.
It’s also refreshing, it must be said, to see romance from a relatively rare perspective: that of a guy. A guy—that guy being Hitch, and also his several clients—who is insecure, and awkward, and wanting in every sense of the word. A guy who acts, at least as far as the tired tropes of the typical rom-com are concerned, very much like a girl. Here, it’s the dudes who are lonely, and smitten, and resorting to petty manipulations to get a date. Here, it’s the men who are worried they’ll end up alone. Hitch may treat romance, blithely, as a form of guerrilla warfare. At least, though, it takes the “girl” largely out of that equation.
But: It also takes the “girl” largely out of that equation! The other message of this otherwise innocuous confection is a more pernicious one: that intention, when it comes to one’s dealings with women, trumps action. That being a good guy—or, more to the point, seeing yourself as a good guy—justifies pretty much all manner of disgusting behavior. Hitch ignores Sara’s many-times-repeated insistences that she’s not interested; that’s cool, we're meant to assume, because of the good-guy principle. And because Hitch knows what she wants better than she does. She may not realize it now, but he will make her realize it. "Because with no guile, and no game,” Hitch explains to a client, “there's no girl."