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The Tough Guy Romantic Comedy

The Tough Guy Romantic Comedy (photo)

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There’s something a little strange about the poster for “The Ugly Truth,” and the sight of the stubbly, gruff face of Gerard Butler, affecting a sly grin and brandishing a heart at groin-level. This is the guy who carried “300” on his back (and maybe his washboard stomach) and, through sheer badness of his assness, inspired as many teenage boy quotations as any movie since “Austin Powers.” In the interim, he’s starred in Guy Ritchie’s crime caper “RocknRolla,” and he’ll next appear in “Gamer,” a film about a super soldier who becomes part of a dystopic video game. But for the moment, here he is in a romantic comedy. King Leonidas probably would have stabbed this dude right through his heart-crotch.

Butler’s a veteran of movie musicals (“The Phantom of the Opera”) and romances (“P.S. I Love You”) but he’s at his best — and certainly best known — as a man of action, and his appearance in a screwball romantic comedy is interesting (if not, shall we say, promising looking) against-type casting. Of course, Butler isn’t Hollywood’s first manful stud unafraid to showcase a softer side. Here are five other noteworthy examples:

What Women Want (2000)
Directed by Nancy Meyers

Nick Marshall is what “What Women Wants” calls a “man’s man.” A chauvinistic, philandering cad, he’d much rather grope a woman’s feminine side than get in touch with his own. So, naturally, that’s exactly what Nick is forced to do when he’s electrocuted and discovers he’s been given the magical ability to read women’s thoughts. Nick is played by Mel Gibson, and the movie milks the incongruity of the macho actor going soft for everything it’s worth. In “Lethal Weapon 2,” Mel cackled with glee as he dislocated his own shoulder just to win a few bucks in an office bet. Here, a brief flirtation with leg wax elicits yelps of agony.

Gibson had done the occasional romantic comedy before (like 1990’s “Bird on a Wire”) but never one without the crux of guns and explosions, and certainly not with this level of emasculation — can you imagine Mad Max apologizing to a woman he’s wronged by telling her she “dazzled” him? Elvis Mitchell once wrote that Gibson had played martyr “more often and more photogenically than anyone since Joan Crawford.” For an actor famously in love with the idea of his own suffering, trashing his onscreen virility may have been the ultimate sacrifice.

The Quiet Man (1952)
Directed by John Ford

Halfway through “The Quiet Man,” flame-haired Irishwoman Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) asks, “What matter of man have I married?” Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is a barrel-chested ex-pug from Pittsburgh, reclaiming his family’s small plot of land in Innisfree. A classic American entrepreneurial type, he’s used to instant gratification. So when he espies the bad-tempered Mary Kate herding some sheep over a lush green pasture, he puffs up his bravado and swoops in for love. He immediately scrapes up against the town’s rigid courting traditions (no touching!), and blunders into a feud with her brother Will (a harrumphing, red-faced Victor McLaglen). O’Hara is coy and cunning all at once, galloping around Wayne with athletic (and flirtatious) abandon before stridently abiding by the courtship book. Wayne lets his macho insecurity burn low, impetuously stealing some kisses but playing obediently by her rules. That is, until O’Hara withholds her bedroom favors and flees the emerald coop. Then the quiet man blows up in the hilariously raucous close, where director John Ford, Wayne and O’Hara pack in so many Irish hay-makers and blarney humor it would choke the Lucky Charms leprechaun. And it’s glorious.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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