The middle of February brought a slew of romance films to streaming, as you’d expect. Below is my take on the new films that are streaming. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
At Midnight (Paramount+)
Starring: Monica Barbaro, Diego Boneta, and Anders Holm
Synopsis: This latest Paramount+ original is a romance film. It centers on Sophie (Barbaro) and Adam (Holm), the stars of a huge superhero film franchise. They’re on location shooting in Mexico and, in addition to being co-stars, they’re also a couple. Or they were until Sophie caught Adam cheating. He wants her back but Sophie just wants to get through the film and get on toward the next phase of her life. While at the resort in Mexico, she encounters the assistant manager, Alejandro (Boneta). He’s used to making fast friends with female guests during their stay and moving on when they go back home. But with Sophie, it’s different. As real sparks start to fly, it upsets the plans both Sophie and Alejandro have for their lives. Can they make it work? Can their series of meetings at Midnight blossom into more? If you’ve seen a movie in this genre, you know where this is going. These stories live or die with the characters and the story. Here, it doesn’t quite work. Boneta and Barbaro are decent leads but their characters and the story here was flat and relatively uninteresting. By the time we got to the ending I didn’t much care about Sophie or Alejandro, and I wasn’t invested in whether they could make it work. It’s watchable but completely forgettable as a film.
Rating: Rated R for some language.
Somebody I Used to Know (Prime Video)
Starring: Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons, and Dani Pudi
Synopsis: Another romantic comedy, this one focusing on Ally (Brie), a reality TV show producer and documentary filmmaker whose career has hit an impasse. Her show is on the verge of cancellation, which sends her home for a break. There, she crosses paths with an old flame, Sean (Ellis). The have a crazy night together and Ally wants to resume the relationship. Instead, she discovers Sean is engaged to Cassidy (Clemons), and this is their wedding weekend. After Sean’s parents invite Ally to serve as the wedding videographer, she uses it as an opening to infiltrate the festivities and, hopefully, get Sean back. But is it really what either of them wants? For a film like this to work, you have to buy into the main character to be willing to overlook or forgive the awful things they’re about to do. That didn’t happen for me here. I enjoyed the opening sequence, particularly a joke on the plane, and I thought the coda, set six months later, had a certain charm. But the bulk of the film in the middle was just awkward. I didn’t buy the chemistry between any of the characters and I wasn’t invested in their happy ending. This is the second film directed by Brie’s husband, Dave Franco, that she features in. I wasn’t taken with their first collaboration, The Rental, either. This film is better, and it’s OK, but it’s not particularly engaging.
Rating: Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and brief drug use.
Your Place or Mine (Netflix)
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Chao, Jesse Williams, Tig Notaro, Wesley Kimmel, and Steve Zhan
Synopsis: Another romantic comedy, this one on Netflix and hailing from writer/director Aline Brosh McKenna. This one takes some inspiration from Pillow Talk, and Kutcher has said he was drawn to it thanks to his own real life romance. Peter (Kutcher) and Debbie (Witherspoon) have been fast friends since a hook up first brought them together. That night didn’t lead to romance, but it did lead to a connection that’s lasted over the years. Now, 20 years later they are still connected and about to exchange lives. Debbie has a class that requires her to spend a week in New York. While she heads to stay in Peter’s bachelor pad, he flies to Los Angeles to spend the week watching her son, Jack (Kimmel). Each gets a chance to walk in the other’s shoes, but is it enough to make them realize the love affair that’s been boiling under the surface for years? This is a solid film with a strong cast and a decent set up. What keeps it from being great is the construct of the story. The central focus is on Peter and Debbie, and their romance. The problem is there is no chance to build chemistry. The two share the screen for a few minutes at the beginning of the film as part of a meet cute and then come together for about five minutes in a closing sequence that is meant to be the big payoff. That means in a film that runs about an hour and 50 minutes, the two stars share the screen for about 10 minutes. That saps the ending of some of its power. This film is fine and entertaining but it’s not as good as it should be.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for suggestive material and brief strong language.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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