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Film: Failure To Launch

A 2006 romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey, known if for any reason for a subplot with Zooey Deschanel and Justin Bartha widely agreed to be far more interesting than the main plot. At 35, Tripp (McConaughey) has an interesting job, a hip car, a passion for sailing, and a great house - trouble is, he lives with his parents. They want him out, so they hire Paula (Parker), an "interventionist" who specializes in a phenomenon she calls "failure to launch", who pretends to date her clients' adult children to bolster their confidence and social skills (or maybe shame them) to get them to leave home. She has a simple formula: stage a quirky chance encounter, get him to ask her out, involve him in a trauma, meet his friends and get their nod, delay sex, have him teach her something, then launch him. It's worked up to now, but this gets complicated when Tripp thinks she's getting too serious and one of his pals is attracted to Paula's deadpan, semi-alcoholic roommate, who's plagued by a mockingbird. Too many secrets may scrub the launch, and what if Paula really likes him? Who can intervene then?

Tropes present in Failure to Launch include:

  • Basement-Dweller: Ace is presented this way at first, though as Kit gets to know him she finds out that he's actually living in an extension of his family's house and paying his mother rent while working on an internet startup. Paula's normal clientele seem to be mroe straightforward examples however.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ace is, like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl examples below, a subversion. Kit only begins to take interest in him after he stops pursuing her and offers her something useful; to whit, a BB gun to kill her mockingbird.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: Throughout the movie Tripp is constantly under attack from wildlife. According to Demo, this is because he's "out of harmony with nature' and nature knows it.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Demo, rather unlike Tripp.
  • Geek Reference Pool: Noticeable to a cringe-worthy degree when Paula is talking to another (supposedly extremely, painfully nerdy and shy) client, and the only thing the writers could think to have him reference is A New Hope.
  • Manchild: Tripp, who still expects his parents to cook for him and do his laundry.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played with in multiple ways. Paula's strategy for getting her clients' children to move out is based around her acting like one to make the men she's pretending to date feel wanted and boost their confidence, but it's made clear that this is an act. Meanwhile, Kit appears to be one, playing on her actor's reputation, but she gets more screentime and character development than Dogged Nice Guy Ace, whose attempts to woo her are mostly fruitless. Kit's alcoholism is also portrayed with at least an attempt at seriousness, as Paula notes that underneath her jokes about Champagne Thursday, she really is teetering on the edge of a serious problem.
  • Playing with a Trope: Really at the heart of the movie, as the entire plot revolves around Paula's using romcom tropes to fake relationships, and other subversions and deconstructions naturally follow.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Tripp's fiance.
  • Stunt Casting: There is no doubt that most of cast of Failure to Launch was massively overqualified for their tiny and/or poorly-written parts, perhaps most Egregiously Kathy Bates as Bev, Tripp's mother, and Bradley Cooper as Demo (though it is worth mentioning that in the latter case, this was a bit before he made it big).

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