The phrase, “That’s what she said,” has taken on a life of its own in the wake of its appearance on The Office. It turns out it has been around a lot longer than that TV show (according to my quick Internet research). In That’s What She Said, the punch line is utilized as an overarching joke as the women of the film frankly discuss relationships and sex, though it’s never directly said.
Primarily focusing on the friendship between Bebe (Marcia DeBonis) and Dee Dee (Anne Heche), the film consists of an almost exclusively female cast; it struck me as a crass, updated version of George Cukor’s The Women. Taking place over one day in New York City, Bebe eagerly prepares for a date she has later that evening with a man she met at a wine tasting. Dee Dee, her best friend, is not quite as enthusiastic about this upcoming event. Bebe spends the credit sequence calling a hungover Dee Dee to make certain she’ll be up and around the whole day for moral support. As Bebe puts it, she hadn’t had sex in one year and 18 months before a one-night fling with this new guy, and she’s excited to see if this relationship will take off. Dee Dee is much more fluid in her dating ways, having recently come out of a tumultuous, serious relationship.
At a local coffee shop, Bebe meets Clementine (Alia Shawkat), who has, only moments ago, broken up with her boyfriend and been kicked out of their apartment, so kind Bebe can’t help but comfort Clementine. Dee Dee joins their table, and has little patience for any new people, especially a crying, emotional younger woman, and as Bebe continues comforting Clementine, it becomes clear Clementine has far more serious problems than losing her boyfriend. She is a nymphomaniac, and the film tries, and fails, to simultaneously take this affliction seriously while also using it to its comedic advantage. Talking openly and loudly about sex while giving advice to Clementine, Dee Dee gets the trio kicked out of the coffee shop.
The rest of the film continues in much the same fashion; the three women move from one location to another, talking frankly about their love lives while wreaking havoc on those around them. Clementine throws up on Dee Dee in a taxi, Dee Dee sets off the fire alarm in a spa by smoking in the bathroom, and the list goes on. While there are a few funny moments, especially from DeBonis, it all seems overly contrived. The film tries to make a point about the importance female friendship, but the crudeness and confusing messages cause the overall theme to fall sort of flat.
Director Carrie Preston is probably best known for her role as Arlene on True Blood. Both she and screenwriter Kellie Overbey, who has small part in That’s What She Said, try their best to make this film about women, for women. It attempts to be outspoken and colorful. It could even be seen as a descendant of Sex and the City, but with a more realistic set of friends who aren’t financially capable of wearing designer clothes on a daily basis. However, the film’s attempts at crude shock and the mixed messages about how seriously to take each situation make it a bit too uneven. It’s also difficult to see how the title of That’s What She Said came about, other than each character does a fair share of talking.