Meghan Miles is a good girl. Straight-laced, the local L.A. news anchor comes from a polished conservative family from Texas. And so when a potential promotion opens up at a larger network affiliate, the prim and proper Miles seems like their ideal choice; a safe candidate. However, before the TV journalist can focus on the potential elevation, her life is sideswiped — her fiancé moves out taking everything with him. Encouraged by her best friends, her devastating upheaval leads to a night of binge drinking and “Walk of Shame” begins its ill-conceived evening (and morning after) of wacky misadventures.
Said bender lands Miles in the arms of a handsome bartender (James Marsden) and their wild drunken night is a great cathartic release for the wounded anchorwoman. But come the morning, after she makes her requisite quick one-night-stand get-away, Meghan discovers her car has been towed, and with it her wallet, ID and phone. Stranded in downtown L.A. with only her high heels and banana yellow dress (and not one cell phone number she can remember; curse our modern age), the clock ticks down for the film’s silly premise: will Meghan make it to her important job audition on time and will her night of shame be revealed to all in the course of her odyssey?
A starring vehicle for the talented and charming Elizabeth Banks, the actress is deserving of her own solo show, but “Walk Of Shame” is unfortunately nowhere near worthy of her various gifts for comedy. As some have already noted, the 24-hour centric “Walk Of Shame” is a little bit like Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours,” only in reverse; it’s mostly takes place in the hungover morning instead of the twisted hours of the late night. But the similarities, unfortunately for this movie, end there.
Written and directed by Steven Brill (writer/director of “Little Nicky,” helmer only on “Mr. Deeds,” and “Drillbit Taylor“), the film is curiously schizophrenic. Brill’s screenplay mixes traditional rom-com generics with sporadically funny R-rated vulgarity and ludicrously dumb gags that seem in-keeping with anyone that has directed two Adam Sandler films (one joke with what appears to be a CGI cat is just so out of place, its inherent stupidity is overtaken by how baffling it is). These coarse and unexpected comedic edges occasionally preclude “Walk of Shame” from being as completely vapid and insipid as it can be, but it certainly doesn’t salvage the movie either.
A comedy of errors and zany misunderstandings — essentially about misconceptions of character — over the course of Miles’ 24-hour mishap, she is mistaken for a prostitute, a gang banger, a crack-dealer, a happy ending masseuse and a wicked temptress. But Meghan Miles is actually none of these: she’s a good girl, remember? And we know this because every character (including Meghan herself), blatantly reminds us of this about every 20 goddamn minutes. And if Meghan can just get to this job interview on time – notwithstanding the police and the press who are tracking reports of a hooker in a yellow dress causing havoc around downtown Los Angeles – she can prove to herself (and the audience) and her would-be traditional bosses just how respectable she really is.
Basically about perception, prejudice and passing judgment — Meghan is not the yellow banana streetwalker everyone thinks she is! — the movie does very little with this semi-promising idea. Meghan knows she’s no floozy, the audience knows this too, so the movie has little to offer of internal conflict. Thus, all that’s left is for Meghan to hurdle over all the crazy obstacles that are thrown at her and this is basically why “Walk Of Shame” fails; it’s a movie about the (flawed) collective estimation about an individual who actually has merit, but the narrative isn’t interested in her earning or showing her worth. It just wants her to jump through hoops for dumb laughs.
This means forget even half-hearted concessions to credible character motivation. Miles’ catastrophic dumping on the eve of her big interview should be a huge turning point for this character – instead it’s just a tossed off as an instant excuse for her to get drunk and make poor decisions (nor it is even exploited for laughs). I’m convinced the team that made “Bridesmaids” could turn this into a credible and funny movie from a female POV. Unfortunately, they obviously weren’t available.
Co-starring Gillian Jacobs and Sarah Wright as her two concerned bffs, Kevin Nealon as a crass and stupid helicopter-flying air-traffic reporter, Ethan Suplee and Bill Burr as two cops who mistake Meghan for a hooker walking the streets of L.A. and Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (“The Wire”) as a L.A. gang member and crack dealer that Meghan crosses paths with, the entire supporting cast are all fairly diverting on their own, but given almost nothing to play in the film, they’re as broadly drawn and one-dimensional as everyone and everything else in the script.
To be fair, “Walk Of Shame” has a few dumb laughs, a few of them hollow, and a few of them genuinely so ridiculous and surprising, they’re funny despite how much they traffic in offensive stereotypes of race and religion. In the end “Walk Of Shame” is solely about the ignominious morning-after stride it takes its name from and little else. Sure, the move attempts to sprinkle a little shallow girl-power on top of it: yes, women too can make ill-advised drinking-based sexual decisions, and you know what? It doesn’t make them any less of a person (the way this is explicitly spelled out in the end is also rather excruciating). But its message is simplistically superficial and the pedestrian execution doesn’t help.
Ultimately, “Wall Of Shame” is a movie that asks you to not judge its main character by the cover that is her skimpy and short banana yellow Marc Jacobs dress, but the insubstantial contents therein are so deficient, you’re not given any reason to care either way. [D+]