Film Review: What a ManThis German comedy proves that Hollywood doesn't hold the patent on rom-com conventions.
While the idea of a German romantic comedy may seem like an oxymoron, What a Man proves an amiable diversion that at least has the distinction of not starring Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson. Marking the directorial debut of its 31-year-old star and co-screenwriter Matthias Schweighöfer (The Red Baron, Valkyrie), this foreign import doesn’t deviate much from the formula of standard Hollywood rom-coms, although the change of scene proves refreshing.
The filmmaker plays Alex, a perfectly nice grade-school teacher who’s clearly in over his head with his gorgeous but surly live-in girlfriend Carolin (Mavie Hörbiger). Shortly into the proceedings, he discovers that she’s been unfaithful when an injury she claims was suffered in a fall actually turns out to be a result of rough sex with a hunky neighbor (Thomas Kretschmann). The tip-off occurs when a doctor counsels Alex to avoid a repeat occurrence by helpfully advising him to use a “rectal spreader” next time.
The heartbroken, insecure Alex takes refuge with his lifelong female friend Nele (Sibel Kekilli), who’s involved in a relationship of her own. Meanwhile, his best pal Okke (Elyas M’Barek) takes him under his wing and attempts to teach him how to be a “real man” via such activities as paintball.
Will Alex eventually discover that he’s fine just as he is? Will he and Nele realize that they’re made for each other, with Alex, who’s desperately afraid of flying, even making a mad dash to the airport and forcing himself to get on a plane to tell her that he loves her? Yes and yes.
Notwithstanding its slavish adherence to familiar genre conventions, the film nonetheless makes for reasonably fun viewing, thanks to its off-kilter humor and the chemistry exhibited by Scheweighöfer and Kekilli. The former is a highly appealing screen presence, especially in such amusing scenes as when Alex deals with a rebellious student by informing him just exactly what’s in the hot dog that he refuses to stop eating.
—The Hollywood Reporter