Frequently mistaking shrillness for quirk, That's What She Said is an embarrassing girls-behaving-badly indie romp you'd expect a group of friends to write after an all-you-can-drink brunch. Centered mainly around the lives of three flawed Manhattan women (Marcia DeBonis's delusional romantic Bebe, Anne Heche's pill-popping hot mess Dee Dee, and Alia Shawkat's recently dumped, sex-crazed Clementine), Carrie Preston's film cobbles together an off-putting mixture of callous behavior, one-dimensional caricatures, inept cinematography, and dildo jokes. Though Preston and screenwriter Kellie Overbey are obviously interested in issues of womanhood and female relationships, their study of gender and interpersonal dynamics strains for credibility as the characters never resemble real women.
Bebe, Dee Dee, and Clementine are each given a particular emotional affliction, but rather than confront their personal problems with wit or intelligence, the filmmakers glibly treat these woman as crass, potshot-spewing caricatures. Unbelievably, the supporting characters fare worse, from the lipstick lesbians who serve only as sounding boards to the horny elderly and seedy, bribe-accepting Chinese hairdressers. And in the grand tradition of lazy screenwriting, these women often speak what people would only think, even in conversations relating to yeast infections, vibrators, and nymphomania.
The New York City setting of the film feels completely flat, with Preston conveying the possibilities of big-city living via lazy montages of the skyline crosscut with street signs and subway stations. On a few occasions, even before the inevitable climactic catfight that leads to a completely rushed and unearned catharsis, the characters threaten to abandon each other, but the audience is never so lucky. In the absence of any narrative drive other than Bebe's imminent date with a potential suitor, this cruel and clumsy patchwork of uninspired vignettes and comedic tropes posits itself as a journey of identity and self-ownership, and yet, with its broad sitcom sensibility, lack of atmosphere, and inert Off Broadway chattiness, its own aesthetic identity should be put into question. It's not what she said, it's what she should have asked.