First things first: No one in this film is called Baxter. So why is it called that? Well, according to Elliot (Michael Showalter), his grandmother always said that a “Baxter” was the nice, boring guy who eventually gets dumped by the heroine at the end of every movie for the guy she really wants… and Elliot is a Baxter. All his life, Elliot has been eventually dumped for more exciting, interesting, and handsome men who had the initiative which he lacked, living him with a string of beautiful, intelligent exes, but never any long-term girlfriend.
It’s two weeks before his wedding to Caroline (Elizabeth Banks) and Elliot seems to have escaped the Baxter curse, until Caroline discovers that her high school sweetheart, Bradley (Justin Theroux) is back in town. It’s immediately clear to the audience that, once again, Elliot was the “safety boyfriend”, which (much like a safety school) is a guy who is kind and comfortable, who can give a woman a nice, predictable life, but whom certainly would never be her first choice, if she had one.
The arrival of Caroline’s top pick forces her to deal with the many unresolved feelings which she has towards him, and pushes Elliot to do some self-reflection about exactly why loosing out to another man seems to be a history that he just can’t learn from. Helping Elliot along is Cecil (Michelle Williams), his accounting firm’s new temporary secretary. Cecil doesn’t believe in Baxters, and tries to help Elliot figure out the pattern in his behaviours which led to all of his previous dumpings before he loses Caroline as well.
The Baxter isn’t just a story which is deeply relatable for many men, but for women as well, and speaks deeply to how so many of us would rather settle than risk being alone. Filled with humour, wit, and intelligent dialogue, writer, director and star Showalter manages to infuse just enough humour into an otherwise very serious subject and presents romantic comedies in a refreshing new way. I give this one 3.75 stars.