Dinner & a Movie: Opposites Don't Attract, Particularly Aniston & Butler

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The Dinner: Stilton burger, drinks, and Dungeness crab cakes at Ten Mercer  (10 Mercer St.).

The Movie: The Bounty Hunter , at Pacific

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Dinner & a Movie: Opposites Don't Attract, Particularly Aniston & Butler

  • Dinner & a Movie: Opposites Don't Attract, Particularly Aniston & Butler

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    aniston_look_right.jpg
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    butler_crop.jpg
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    The Dinner: Stilton burger, drinks, and Dungeness crab cakes at Ten Mercer (10 Mercer St.).

    The Movie: The Bounty Hunter, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).The Screenplate: Why Gerard Butler is a movie star, and why Jennifer Aniston isn't a movie star, are questions that will only confound you after viewing this ill-conceived, ineptly executed screwball romance. The Scottish Butler became famous after the 2007 300, in which he hacked up hundreds of Persian warriors while flaunting his Spartan abs. And Aniston, as we all know, was America's sweetheart during the TV reign of Friends (1994-2004), who's never quite connected with moviegoers. Both are capable and likeable in their separate capacities: decapitating Persians and slapping down David Schwimmer, respectively. So why, why, push them together and force them out of their comfort zones?

    The answer applies equally to bad movies and quality dining...

    Some things go together, and some things don't. Dinner and a movie, for instance, is always a wise coupling. However, I prefer to reverse the order and watch first, then discuss what we saw over dinner. My date was forewarned that The Bounty Hunter looked bad in the trailers; the advance buzz was unpromising; so we might then hope to recover the evening with drinks and a nice meal.

    But how to explain the pairing of Aniston and Butler? She's the best dressed journalist at the New York Daily News, teetering around the newsroom in the highest of heels and shortest of skirts. Her cleavage spills out distractingly, making it hard to believe she's an actual crime-beat reporter. (What cop or perp would be able to look her in the eyes during an interview?) Divorced and presently manless, she lives alone in a tastefully Pottery Barned Manhattan apartment--again, much nicer than any police-beat journalist could afford.

    Her character, Nicole, is in fact just the kind of woman you'd hope to meet at Ten Mercer: Attractive and stylish, smart, and no longer pretending to be young. (Aniston is 41 and shows off her very fit legs for most of the movie.) The kids can go to Peso's around the corner; Ten Mercer is for grown-ups. Located in a converted parking garage, the 9-year-old eatery centers around a long, wrap-around bar where you can order off the full menu to midnight (the bar closes at 2 a.m.). It's a nice alternative to actually making reservations; and the restaurant--which extends upward to a mezzanine level--can be quite full on theater nights or when KeyArena is booked with a non-teenybopper band. For post-show or post-movie dining, eating at the bar becomes a convivial, conversational experience--not exactly a pick-up scene, but a place for flirting, not texting. So Aniston's Nicole would fit right in.

    Not so Butler's character Milo, an ex-cop who also happens to be Nicole's ex-husband. He's been kicked off the force for drinking ("intentionally fired," he calls it). Whether this is a cause or result of the divorce isn't clear, just one of many plot points The Bounty Hunter elides. (It's directed by Andy Tennant, part of the same team that did Sweet Home Alabama.) Milo is strictly outer borough; and if he came to visit Lower Queen Anne, Ozzie's would be his port of call. Having sunk to the profession of bounty hunter, he gets the job of tracking down his ex (who's skipped a court date for reasons too trivial to enumerate), following her to Atlantic City. He seems to relish the task--sweet revenge!--like tracking mud on Nicole's pristine white carpeting.

    Unwashed, unshaven, uninterested in giving his ex a break, Milo drinks beers from paper bags on the street. He's a paper plate and pizza kind of guy who wouldn't appreciate the menu at Ten Mercer. The Seared Brussels Sprouts ($7) are a favorite app, and I've always been partial to the house salad ($7), which features cucumber, cous-cous, and pumpkin seeds. There's nothing outer borough about it. For a longer sit-down, I recommend the pan-roasted chicken ($19) with rosemary garlic fingerlings, and I've also had good luck with the Oven Roasted Black Cod ($22).

    But, after enduring 106 minutes of Butler growling at Aniston, and Aniston screaming from the trunk of his baby-blue Olds Delta 88 ragtop (really inconspicuous on a stake-out), into which he unceremoniously dumps her and locks her, one wants to erase the memory quickly with booze and bar food. 10 Mercer's bar supply extends almost literally to the ceiling (there's a library ladder to reach that top, top shelf). Tanqueray and tonic is my regular order (the bartender knows me by sight); and my date had a glass of the solid, oaky Woodward Canyon Cabernet. (The wine list is deep, and prices by the glass drop to $5 during the 4:30-6:30 p.m. happy hour, running Sun.-Thurs.)

    Waiting for the food, we discussed how much better The Bounty Hunter would've been had Aniston and Butler been removed via CGI, leaving things in the hands of the funny supporting cast, which includes SNL's Jason Sudeikis, Jeff Garlin, Christine Baranski, and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. (Wondering who the latter is? "What's she been in?" my date wondered. Thanks to my iPhone's IMDb app, I was able to prove she'd seen the ex-SNL'er way back in Baby Mama, where she played the officious birth coach. What did we do before such devices?)

    After more trivia, we got our Grilled Dungeness Crab Cakes ($13), served with finely sliced fries. (It's also available in sandwich form for $16, with a larger serving of fries.) "Not too briny" was the verdict of my companion, who usually eschews crab. We split the Stilton Burger ($14), made of "natural beef." Whether this means organic or grass-fed, we have no idea. But it can be cooked to order, and it's presented cleanly with bacon, tomato, and red onion. Again, quite tasty. (It's also worth noting here that Ten Mercer's second happy hour--10 p.m.-midnight, Sun.-Thurs.--features half-price appetizers, though no discount on drinks.)

    If Aniston, too, had been able to join us after the movie at Ten Mercer, we would've asked, "Jen, what are you doing with that guy? It's just, so, wrong." Posing for the covers of supermarket checkout line magazines with Butler we can understand--you've got a movie to sell. (Skeptics including Gawker maintain the supposed off-set romance is all a part of the marketing, and we're inclined to agree.) Born gruff, not charming, Butler belongs in movies where he can wave a gun or sword around. And to judge from his one shirtless scene in Bounty Hunter (not hot or titillating), his famous abs have suffered from too many pints, not enough Persian-slaying.

    But Jen deserves better. Every so often, from Office Space to The Good Girl to Friends With Money, she gets a good script that allows her to show her wised-up, weary charm. She's no longer a pretty girl, but a woman who's been around the block. And The Bounty Hunter fails in no small part--beyond the terrible script and shrill dialogue--because her character just seems too smart to have ever fallen for a lout like Butler. The Stilton burger and a G&T go well together; she and Butler do not.

     
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