It’s About Her – One of the strongest tools in Jacob’s repertoire is his technique of making a woman talk about herself and explain why she is interested. He teases her about whatever she says not being good enough, which makes her try even harder to impress him. This is known as qualification, and sets the frame that the woman Jacob is talking to is justifying why he should be attracted to her. She is seeking his approval while he is essentially screening for qualities in women that he’s looking for. It also retroactively justifies her attraction to him; by asking her to qualify herself about what makes her special, he’s convinced her that he knows that she has more to offer than her looks.
It’s a powerful technique and one that Jacob makes full use of.
Get Over By Getting Under – Cal’s tenuous grasp of his manhood and masculinity takes a massive blow when Emily reveals that she’s cheated on him. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a judgment not just on his relationship with him, but on who he is as a man and as a lover. When Jacob tells him that Emily cheated on him because he lost sight of who he was as a man, a husband and a lover, he’s just giving voice to everything that Cal felt about himself… and Cal desperately fears that he’ll never get that part of himself back. As far as he’s concerned, he’s doomed to an empty, loveless, sexless life.
Under Jacob’s tutelage, Cal proceeds to sleep with a number of women in a short period of time… and this helps him start to come to terms with who he is after splitting from his wife. He’s rediscovered that he does have value to offer to a woman and, in fact, women find him incredibly attractive. It’s a balm to his ego and a boost to his confidence. In fact, it’s because of his experiences with those women that Cal reconnects with the part of him that his wife loved… and had been missing for so long. His renewed confidence and grasp of his identity are what ultimately bring the two of them back together in the end.
Know Who You Really Are – Cal’s loss of his identity as a man has left him floundering around, desperate for something to cling to; he can’t let go of his schlubby attire and old life because it’s all he’s known. If he lets go of that… then who is he, really? When Jacob takes him under his wing, Cal slowly rebuilds his confidence and his identity, opening his eyes to the fact that he isn’t bound by who he always believed he was. The new clothes, new attitude and newfound ease and confidence around women bring profound changes… and also profound discoveries. While Cal enjoys his brief dip into the life of a player, he quickly learns who he really is: a loving husband and devoted family man. It’s the knowledge that this is his true self that allows him to be his best self, without having to give up the aspects that he discovered with Jacob.
Telling The Truth Means Never Having To Remember What You Said The Next Day – Cal lies to his wife – and to other women – a number of times. He tells Marissa Tomei’s Kate that he’ll call when he knows he won’t. He tells his wife that he hasn’t been seeing anyone else when he’s already slept with nine other women. When Kate and his wife come into contact, it’s immediately an ugly scene… one that could have been easily avoided. It’s not hard to understand why he lied. He didn’t intend to hurt anyone… which is why he lied in the first place. Cal’s inexperience makes him nervous around Kate, prompting him to agree to things that he may have meant at the time but felt too awkward to follow up on. Meanwhile, while he was hurt by his wife’s infidelities, he didn’t want to hurt her in return by confessing that yes, he has been seeing other women during their split.
If he had been honest – telling Kate that while he had a great time, he was genuinely conflicted about his wife leaving him and telling Emily that he had been dating… well, it may not have been flowers and rainbows all around, but it would have been decidedly less unpleasant for both women.
Sex and Material Goods Don’t Fill The Hole – Jacob is, ultimately, a lonely man. His family life was cold and devoid of love or affection; while he has all the material trappings of success, he’s as rudderless in his own way as Cal was. His amazing house, incredible clothes, material wealth and success with women are all attempts to find a way to make himself happy… and they do. For a little while. But in the end, it’s all on the surface, and deep within, in the part of himself he tries to keep people away from by deflecting any personal talk, he knows that none of it is working.
As I’ve said earlier, this may be a common Hollywood trope that I hate… but it’s not entirely wrong. Jacob is seeking external validation to make up for the emptiness he feels in his life. It’s only when he encounters Hannah – the only woman to call him on his actions and to force him to break out of his usual routine – that he feels secure enough to let her in, trading sexual intimacy for emotional intimacy. It’s only then that he starts to understand that he, like Cal, is deserving of love, and begins to heal the void within him.
Falling in love and healing his life doesn’t mean that he has to give up who he fundamentally is – he’s still effortlessly charming and a snappy dresser. But, like Cal, he’s now his best self.
And that’s ultimately who we all want to be.