I used to hate rom-coms, especially during my teenage years. Obsessed about the idea of being a badass bitch who’s into everything cool and deep and even intellectual, I thought romantic comedy flicks just weren’t good enough to rouse my mind and evoke complex emotions that could make me feel truly human, whatever that meant to me back then.
But here I am now, wiping down my tears which, for some reason, just won’t stop flowing. Because, fuck, I just realized something important about my younger self. Something ground-breaking. And it’s all thanks to this rom-com I just finished watching.
“Hooking Up,” which was released last year, tells the story of two troubled adults who meet in a local elementary school where they attend their respective support group meetings. Darla (Brittany Snow) just got fired from her job as a sex columnist due to her wild behavior mainly prompted by her sex addiction, while Bailey (Sam Richardson) just found out his testicular cancer is back.
Shortly after learning about each other’s misfortunes, they decide to embark on a one-of-a-kind road trip across the United States. Their mission: to look back to Darla’s many sexcapades in hopes of learning something that could help her deal with her addiction and at the same time give Bailey’s remaining testicle a proper sendoff as it needs to be removed soon to prevent cancer from spreading.
As expected, the journey gets really messy. For one, Bailey isn’t aware that Darla actually has a deal with her former boss. She is to write daily updates about Bailey and their trip and post them on the publication’s blog. If the blog series becomes a hit, she can get her job back. Bailey, on the other hand, is low-key using Darla to make his ex, his high school sweetheart who dumped him, jealous. He also asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend when they drop by his parents’ house.
Once they find out about one another’s hidden agenda, they get into a fight, which eventually forces them to deal with their own shit separately. Darla goes back to her hometown and stays briefly at her mom’s place, where she finally realizes how her sad childhood and her mother’s shortcomings have left a mark on her, molding her into the adult she is now. Meanwhile, Bailey stays with his parents and reconnects with his ex who, all of a sudden, is okay again with the idea of getting back with him. He also musters enough courage to tell his parents about the diagnosis, as well as the operation he is about to have.
Since it’s a rom-com, of course, Darla and Bailey make up in the end. They both get redemption, too. Bailey finds the courage to face his cancer diagnosis and have his remaining testicle removed. He also stops clinging to his ex, finally realizing how the two of them have gone apart over the years. As for Darla, her blog entries turn out to be a huge hit and so her boss wants her back. But since she’s a learned person now, she politely declines, noting that writing about sex is probably not the best thing for her at the moment. Besides, she finally admits that there’s probably something wrong with her and she must do something about it. In fact, unlike before, she’s now ready to take the support group meetings seriously and not just show up because the court orders her to. Unsurprisingly, the two characters become closer to each other as well, and it’s obvious in the movie’s ending that a bright future awaits them should they decide to be a couple.
“Hooking Up” has a Tomatometer rating of 26% and a 55% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. A lot of critics from various movie review sites and publications aren’t so impressed by it either, with one of them saying that it’s “as vanilla as they come.” But I don’t really care about these ratings and reviews.
I didn’t click on the Play button expecting my life to change, to begin with. When I decided to watch this movie, I was simply bored and a bit tired after a day’s work. I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to laugh while enjoying dinner and enjoying my evening coffee.
Yet, it made me feel things despite having some flaws. It made me realize something important, particularly the part where Darla talks about her recovery during a support group meeting.
“I mean, I still struggle, especially with not watching porn. That’s a big one for me. I miss getting attention. I miss the validation that came from getting attention, but I know that’s not worth it now. Because I know now that’s not what any of this is really about,” she says.
The bit about validation and attention hit me.
When I was in my early 20s, I turned to sex quite often. I turned to sex when I was sad, upset, and even bored. And I wanted things to be as straightforward as possible. No complications, no drama. Strangely, I seemed to be having fun at the time, even though most of the encounters I was having were actually terrible.
Thanks to this movie, I now understand that I just wanted attention back then. I was also craving validation, which I easily got from men. No wonder the whole thing “thrilled” me. Somehow, those brief encounters made me feel powerful, which was a perfect contrast to the powerlessness I felt most of the time.
I know there’s a lot to unpack here, and it would probably take long before I could even process half of it, considering how messy my past was and how fucked up I used to be. But I guess it’s a great start.
Fuck, who thought I’d be able to realize all these things after watching a movie that falls under a category I used to despise.