Speed Stars: 3/5
Quick review- no spoilers: Funny. And heart warming. It was refreshing to see a genuine range of personalities and priorities for young men (yes, young men who are not all after $ and tail) in a movie. It was refreshing to see a rom-com where happily ever after is nuanced and maybe a little bitter sweet. And I’m glad I went. I won’t buy it on Blue-ray though.
Spoilers coming now
Here they come.
You can leave now if you want, really.
One of the great things about movies about writers is you tend to have at least one character that actually understands human nature, which is great. George, played by Jon Rudnitsky, is one such character and is pretty much the best thing happening in the film. Not that the others aren’t pulling their weight. The acting never gets in the way of the film. Rather the writing of the film betrays its own agenda.
When did we land a social order where having regular sex with someone, share living space with them, including them in your children’s lives doesn’t qualify them at least as your boyfriend? When did we get to a place where it’s cool to be sleeping with someone while you are still legally married to someone else? And when in the history of ever did casual sex with someone turn into them being part of your family, but not your partner, and everything still being fine?
People who make bad choices continue to make bad choices unless they hit a real turning point in their lives. It may not be a rock bottom moment per say, but it has to be a real “Aha!” The characters that change the most, Teddy and Austin I would argue, never reach those moments and yet Austin is suddenly a great, attentive dad and Teddy is somewhat more responsible and can step back from his lustful pursuit of Reese Witherspoon’s character, Alice.
And let me just throw this out there, George would have been a much more interesting love interest than Teddy. The chemistry between Teddy and Alice is sparky but awkward. Whereas I kept hoping, with no luck, that she and George would at least have a moment. Nope. He gets friend zoned.
I do love that the young guys are shown genuinely enjoying Alice’s daughters’ company. They bond in a healthy and positive way, and the guys take on care of the kids with a selflessness not often seen on screen. Too often we see young men depicted as shallow, muscle bound, tail chasers or smooth talking con-artists. These guys were people. Decent, artistic, multi-talented people. Cinematic fresh air. And yet… what mother of two young girls decides to let three twenty something males she just met (during a night of binge drinking) live in her guest house? Who do you know that is recently separated and happens to have a California property with a guest house that they weren’t using cause they lived in New York? And it’s her mother, played by Candice Bergen, who talks her into it with the oh so persuasive line, “Try to think of this as something exciting.”
Also different, with a tinge of both fresh and forced, is the fact that Alice ends up with – nobody. In the end she is her own woman, in her own space, leading her own life. Which is great. She realizes that she needs to be a whole person who doesn’t allow herself to be written off or sidelined. Also great. And yet… isn’t the reason we go see a rom-com mostly for the rom?
The final scene where everyone is sitting around the table, ex-husband smiling across from the guy that punched him, mom at the table with two people she’s slept with plus her own mother and her children, a trio of young men who are all cool being absorbed into this family unit that they don’t really have a claim on, especially Teddy, is a lie. It’s a pretty lie, one that I think many folk think is possible, but it requires that everyone at that table, including the children, be rational actors.
No divorce is that neat or amicable. No feeling person can just ignore that kind of baggage. And yeah, there are blow up moments where the adults lose it on each other a bit, but the whole thing lacks the fundamental understanding that all action and emotion leads to other action and emotion.
Teddy gets mad at his partners for taking other jobs then just gets over it cause they say he should. If it bothered him enough to be angry over it in the first place then that feeling of abandonment doesn’t just up and leave. He and George have been down the road of girls fought over before and George dealing with the fallout of Teddy’s bad choices. Their friendship is the most dysfunctional relationship of the film, and that includes the separated yet cheating and soon to be divorced couple. Meanwhile, Teddy’s younger brother Harry just watches this all roll by.
Moreover, there are too many threads left dangling. Alice pisses off a socialite who has been taking advantage of her with no consequences. The guys’ movie may or may not get made- we have no idea. And no one is in love at the end. The movie just kind of stops.
I think what the film was going for, as the title implies, is that a sense of homecoming: of being comfortable in your own skin, with the relationships you have, the boundaries you have set, and the course you pursue are more important than romance. Being true to yourself (whatever that may mean in the modern context) is not worth sacrificing in the name of working through a relationship.
Here’s the thing, manipulators don’t suddenly stop manipulating. There is no comfortable way to have someone who is trying to manipulate you in your life. I’ve known too many women, forced by shared custody and the care of their children, who have to keep in contact with a manipulative, emotionally abusive man. They are constantly having to reassert and refresh boundaries. They are in a state of tug of war where their children become pieces in the game. There is never, from my limited-outside-looking-in experience, a sudden change from wheedling strategist to respectful familial companion.
So, yeah I laughed at the funny bits. I felt deep satisfaction when Austen-the-ex got decked. I loved some of the really delicious lines. “I’m not in love with her. I just love many things about her, like her face and her personality.” But over all, I don’t buy the love story, I don’t like the ending, and the morality is more than a little topsy-turvey for me.
Redbox it if you must, but $10 worth, it ain’t.
Until next time, enjoy the show.