The Baxter, written by, directed by, and starring Michael Showalter, is a 2005 Romantic Comedy told from the point of view of the typical guy pushed aside for the love interest.
Elliott Sherman (Showalter), a pleasant and professionally successful accountant, has a history of losing his love interest to cooler, more sensitive, more adventurous men than himself. Elliott's grandmother coined a term for this kind of man: a Baxter.
The film really begins when two women enter Elliott's life at nearly the same time: Cecil Mills (Michelle Williams), a gentle, artistic, quirky Midwesterner, and Caroline Swann (Elizabeth Banks), an affluent, glamorous, dramatic Northeasterner. Elliott chooses to pursue his fellow Ivy Leaguer Caroline, and thus begins another journey into Baxterdom.
Fans of Showalter's other projects (The State, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer) will find many familiar faces in The Baxter: Michael Ian Black ("Ed"), David Wain ("Louis Lewis"), Paul Rudd ("Dan"), Zak Orth ("Wendell Wimms"), AD Miles (Bar Baxter #1), and Joe LoTruglio (Bar Baxter #2). Elizabeth Banks ("Caroline Swann") also appeared in Stella and Wet Hot American Summer.
Tropes appearing in The Baxter include:
- Actor Allusion: Michael Ian Black's character name is Ed.
- Betty and Veronica: Cecil Mills and Caroline Swann, respectively.
- Big Applesauce
- Chastity Couple: Elliott and Caroline. They face away from each other when sleeping, and greet each other with air kisses.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Caroline's brother-in-law Louis Lewis.
- Comically Missing the Point: Elliott in his romantic flashbacks. High school Elliott didn't get that the girl with the hurt leg wanted to dance with him. College Elliott didn't get that his companion wanted him to offer her his own coat as a chivalrous gesture, and Elliott insisted that he wouldn't mind going back to the car to retrieve her coat.
- Distracted By The Beautiful: Elliott. He is in the midst of asking out Cecil when Caroline Swann makes her glamorous first appearance. Elliott immediately retrains his affections upon Caroline.
- Drama Queen: Caroline. She might have a reason to be unhappy with Elliott during the wedding planner sequence, but her reaction is out of proportion to the problem.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Elliott fully explains to Cecil what goes on during Backwards Jeans Day at work.
- Happily Ever After: For once, the Baxter gets one.
- Henpecked Husband: Louis Lewis, who warns Elliott that this fate is in store for him.
- Incredibly Lame Fun: Elliott and Cecil read the dictionary for fun.
- It's a Small City After All: Characters often run into each other in New York City.
- Love at First Sight: Elliott, twice - with Cecil, and just a few minutes later, with Caroline. Elliott decides to pursue Caroline.
- Meaningful Name: Caroline Swann, Elliott's beautiful and elegant fiancee.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Averted, just barely, when Cecil stays at Elliott's apartment after a fight with her boyfriend. Nothing happens, but when Elliott's fiancee and the wedding planner are closing in, Cecil and Elliott scramble around madly to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
- Narrator: Elliott begins the film as this, but his narration goes away as the film progresses.
- Odd Man Out: Elliott, at the table with Bradley, Sonya, Dan, and the accountants. Bradley and Dan take turns acting quick-hit funny characters that everyone finds funny except the depressed Elliott.
- Punny Name: Wedding planner Benson Hedges.
- Put on a Bus: Cecil's boyfriend Dan, who leaves for Cincinnati without her
- Romantic False Lead: Elliott and Caroline
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: When Bradley barges into the church during the third act, Elliott had just spoken up, presumably to call off the wedding
- The Matchmaker: Elliott's friend, and fellow Baxter, Wendell Wimms. He was perfectly willing to give up his string quartet tickets to Elliott when Cecile arrived.
- Third Wheel: Elliott, with Bradley and his own fiancee Caroline
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Elliott, the moment he decided to pursue Caroline Swann.
- Which begets an Ironic Echo toward the end of the movie.