“Along Came Polly” is the story of one Polly, who comes along and relieves a non-confrontational insurance worker from his mental habit of magnifying the more coarser aspects of humans around him.
Reuben is a successful insurance risk analyst in New York, who is obsessed with calculating and mitigating the risk factors in his life. We’re given a demonstration of his neatness and specificity when we see his obsessive involvement in the minutiae of his marriage planning. However, on the first day of their honeymoon, despite all his planning, his new wife makes off with a French scuba instructor leaving him alone and broken. He returns to find a massive amount of sympathy from his friends and colleagues at work. Later, when visiting an arts exhibition, he happens to meet Polly, a childhood classmate who’s now working as a waitress. Thinking that she’s interested in him, he tracks her down and manages to take her on a date. They develop a romance, which is soon brought to an abrupt halt when Reuben’s wife returns to New York and asks to get back together. Confused between the two choices, Reuben resorts to the risk calculator on his laptop and starts entering various facts to compare the two women. For whatever reason, the computer decides to favor Polly over his wife. This plan then backfires when Polly discovers the program and is offended by the fact that Reuben treats her like just another option to be decided amongst. After breaking up with him, she decides to leave the city without letting him know. Realizing that he’s made a huge mistake, Reuben rushes to Polly and makes a grand but gross gesture of eating salted nuts off the wet ground to prove to her that he loves her. This is enough to convince her and they live happily ever after.
Building on the very familiar trope of “opposites attract”, ‘Along Came Polly’ is a conventional romantic comedy that also relishes in portraying the more grotesque aspects of human behaviour. The emphasis on bodily functions, fluids and other hygiene habits of the various characters is intended as a contrast against the well-mannered and adjusted character played by Ben Stiller. The plot implies that these unpleasant things gravitate towards him specifically because of his resistance to them. His being grossed out by what other people consider normal, causes them to get exaggerated from his perspective. The interpretation is further supported by his act of consuming soiled nuts lying on the pavement. It represents his achievement of breaking free from the shackles of his thought process and gaining a sense of control over his life.
Reuben’s romance with Polly is quite the under-developed one. Their falling together in bed when Reuben admits to her, his habits of risk management screams laziness on the part of the screenplay. Sex is used as a blatant substitute for actual on screen romance. If you remove the sexy times from the cut, you’d never even think that the two actors are in love. This actually aggravates the other problem that is Polly’s commitment phobia. Conventionally, men are portrayed as wild and free, while women the ones willing to commit. Now I’m not saying that the opposite isn’t possible. It’s just that Polly’s issues with settling down combined with the lack of serious romantic chemistry results in a lacklustre viewing experience.
About halfway into its runtime, the movie also decides to introduce Reuben’s parents. His mother is a control freak who wants him to get back with his wife. His father is unable to contest this, even though he has a differing opinion. Only at the end does he gather enough confidence to speak, but only makes vague allusions to philosophy. Almost mechanically, this resolves all mental confusion for Reuben and he sets out to convince Polly of his love. This whole subplot is thrown in, just to emphasize further where Reuben gets his non-confrontational behaviour from.
Seriously, don’t waste your time watching this. Even the video quality on Netflix was terrible.