Hitch and Authenticity

Hitch and Authenticity May 14, 2024

Columbia Pictures via “IMDb”

Full confession: I have yet to see a single episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I promise I’m not avoiding it, my television education has just always lagged behind my film education. (Though give me some credit, I am working to catch up and just finished watching Malcom in the Middle yesterday.) So when I think of Will Smith’s iconic roles, my attention generally defers to his 2005 rom-com, Hitch.

Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith) make a living as a “date doctor,” helping men who are lacking in confidence win over women they’re sure would never give them a second glance. Hitch is landed with the job of a lifetime when the bumbling Albert Brenneman (played by Kevin James for perspective) enlists his help to win the attention of elegant socialite, Allegra Cole. It’s the kind of situation that turns heads, one of them being gossip columnist, Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), the woman that Hitch happens to be interested in.

Hitch’s whole promise is that you can arrange circumstances in such a way that you never have to reveal the most awkward parts of yourself. Love without vulnerability. It’s easy to see the appeal there, but you can also see how it sounds too good to be true. Hitch was himself burned by a previous relationship when his girlfriend did not reciprocate his vulnerability. He says he feels “obliged to pass on this education to his fellow men.” He has built a career on building up a fragile ego, determined to never reveal anything vulnerable about himself or put himself in any situation in which he doesn’t look like a superhero.

His whole persona has a charming, even admirable bend to it. You kinda want what he’s got. But it’s the moments when Hitch is so clearly out of his comfort zone that stand out as the strongest, both narrative-wise and character-wise. It’s also when his defenses are dropped that you get to see how Alex and Sara have a genuine rapport and level of comfort with one another. One such event has Hitch develop an intense allergic reaction, and in the fallout, Sara takes him over to her place. It’s there that they share their life stories, and with them moments of genuine tenderness, setting the stage for a moment of genuine bonding between the two of them.

That’s not necessarily a viewpoint Hitch is eager to convert to. He and Albert are at odds with how to woo Allegra for basically the whole film. Hitch sees Albert as a walking disaster who is one breakdance from screwing up his chance with not only Allegra, but all of womankind. The twist is, it’s his irrepressible authenticity that endears Allegra to Albert. Hitch’s date doctor magic was nothing more than a placebo effect that gave Albert the confidence to open himself up to someone he was convinced was “out of his league.” Hitch is convinced that he has found a shortcut through living, an excuse to never feel disappointed or embarrassed, but really he is just putting up walls and closing doors. His only shot at happiness is by abandoning the facade and baring his soul to the woman he loves.

Being authentic entails a lot more than just not lying. The kind of vulnerability that builds trust and companionship comes when you allow your whole self to be seen.

Columbia Pictures via “Movie Scope”

Browse Our Archives