Saturday, 1 December 2018

When We First Met (2018) - Movie Review the last handful of centuries, romantic comedies have become the sub-genre primed for mocking, containing all kinds of insipid clich├ęs and story tropes that breed incessantly within it like the world’s least useful petri dish. Over the last handful years, time travel narratives have been in vogue, primarily those involving the lead character reliving the same event over and over again, trying to get it "right" and make everyone happy (or, more likely, just themselves). These two worlds have intersected before, like with last year’s Naked, but this is a truly harmonious synergy. A feat of filmmaking that manages to highlight the utter worst of both worlds to create a shining example of why this shit needs to stop.

Adam DeVine has been priming for leading man status for a while now, and to his credit, this actually makes his strongest case yet. As the focal point of the story, he is surprisingly watchable and his chemistry with pretty much everyone else in attendance is on point. For stories like this, there needs to be a character worth reliving the same moments with at its centre, and we definitely get that here. What we don’t get are moments that are worth reliving for their own sake.

Between the rom-com tropes and the time travel tropes, this reaches an apex of tedium where not only is everything remarkably predictable, but that predictability comes from two separate playbooks. It is immensely frustrating watching this film actually be relatively entertaining for the first 15 minutes, only to smash into an anger-inducing wall as soon as the time travel gimmick is introduced. It works in a similar vein to The Butterfly Effect, in how its jumps between the night of the change and three years after the fact for the result. Of course, there’s no showings of psychological damage or glaring martyr complexes around, lest we be given something pleasant to watch. Well, more pleasant than the raw pain that is sitting through this mess.

Actually, I take that back: There are showings of psychological damage here, only not in the way the filmmakers likely intended. Out of all the time loop narratives I’ve covered on here, from home invasions to wacky weddings watching a best friend die over and over, this might contain the single worst conceit in the sub-genre.

Why? Because the scenario of constantly reliving the notion that you and another person from years ago were perfect for each other, if only you were able to go back and make it happen, is one of the most unhealthy attitudes a person can have with romance. Especially when it becomes a lingering issue, where that hypothetical becomes a point of personal fixation. It’s the kind of thing that people end up looping in their own heads to begin with, and that level of "what might have been" is not a good thing. Or, to put it more pointedly, watching someone else go through that repeatedly for over an hour-and-a-half is not a good thing, nor is it particularly funny.

Maybe it’s a level of personal experience with this kind of musing over the romance that wasn’t, as it likely is for most people who still remember their high school years, but it is not all that funny seeing someone live through what qualifies as personal hell for those familiar with the feeling. It’s a universal form of heartbreak, but it’s not the kind that makes for pleasant viewing, especially in a film where pretty much no risks are taken. Tragedy is required for comedy, and the misery of others is an easy way to get that, but this goes a little too far down that road, resulting in a cringe fest that is only cushioned by knowing that I didn’t specifically buy a ticket for it.

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