Bullock is Mary Horowitz, a crossword-puzzle writer for a Sacramento newspaper, who’s meant to be a quirky, socially inept intellectual but who, instead, comes off as an annoying and slightly deranged know-it-all whose use of $50 words rings distractingly false. Nevermind that Bullock decides to play Mary with an inexplicable and entirely needless speech impediment that comes and goes depending on the scene.
One day, Mary’s set up on a blind date with Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cable-news cameraman, and within five minutes of meeting him she literally pounces and starts tearing off his clothes. Turned on and then immediately turned off, Steve flees and thinks that’s the end of things. Problem is, a delusional Mary believes Steve’s “the one.” So, like a heat-seeking missile, she pursues him relentlessly, tracking him and his news team – made up of fame-whorish reporter Hartman Hughes (a hilarious Thomas Haden Church, the film’s saving grace) and high-strung producer Angus (Ken Jeong) – to assorted cities and news event across the southwest United States.
And that’s pretty much all there is to the movie. Mary chasing Steve from one location to another, and through one implausibility to the next. Somehow, the film is also supposed to be about self-acceptance in the face of adversity, but it’s buried underneath an hour and a half of nonsense. Nothing about what happens onscreen is believable – not Mary’s profound obsession, not Steve’s über-panicked reactions and certainly not any of the situations in which these characters find themselves.
Bullock tries her darndest to create a memorable character in Mary, but everything she says, does and wears feels manufactured for the sake of quirk… so much so that I started having Post Grad flashbacks. Mary is not a real person, and in order for the audience to sympathize or empathize with her plight, Bullock and the filmmakers really should have dialed down the insane eccentricities. It’s also a role tailor-made for someone like, say, Emily Mortimer or Kristen Wiig — someone who can do geeky-and-weird-but-sweet much more convincingly.
In the end, All About Steve isn’t absurd enough in its tone to be a great comic farce, and it’s not nearly sincere enough in its storytelling or execution to warm the heart the way the filmmakers clearly – based on some last-grasp efforts as the film winds to a close – hope it will.