R for language, sex stuff (that's probably the best way I can put it), and just inappropriate behavior. My wife pointed out that there's a lot of drinking going on in this movie. I can't fight that. Even look at the picture above. They're drinking. They drink a lot and no one ever really comments on it. There isn't nudity in this movie, but the sexuality is definitely a thing. R.
DIRECTOR: Jason Orley
I'm having a productive day. It's 9:43 at night and my son is monopolizing the PS5. I just finished a book. I changed all the burned out bulbs in the house. I put away my comics. I folded laundry. I still have Covid. These are things that happened today. But if I can knock out one blog today, I'll feel really good about myself. After all, I have a couple of movies under my belt and I don't want to fall too far behind. But I also have that issue where I'm writing about a rom-com again. I don't know what it is about the rom-com that makes me spiral into the same territory time and again. But that doesn't mean that I don't have anything to say.
The best part of I Want You Back is that it doesn't really break any of the rules that a rom-com tends to ignore. There are consequences for bad behavior and I kind of love that. Trust me, I have this long diatribe that I tell once a year to a room of students who aren't allowed to leave until the bell about how the last Harry Potter needed to have consequences for bad actions that never came. I lead an empty life, hence the bragging about lightbulbs. But I like that as sympathetic as the two protagonists are, I'm glad that they aren't allowed to get away with stuff just because they are likable. Yeah, they are forgiven for the most part, but that's a very different scenario then just accepting what they had done. I think the neoclassical precepts are something that have warped me into becoming something either more or less than human because I need rules to my stories. Peter is genuinely a good person. Emma is a little more morally ambiguous, but hasn't done anything overtly evil. But when the two of them decides to conspire to trick their respective others back, that does make them kind of the bad guys of the story.
I mean, what is a bad guy in a rom-com? Often, the real bad guys tend to be these significant others that cheat on their spouses. But I Want You Back allows these characters to be sketchy without fully going out of bounds. I really like this. But often, our main characters have some kind of disgusting trait that they learn to purge by the end of the film because they've been overwhelmed by the power of love. (I'm thinking of all those tropes of dating for the wrong reason and then really falling in love.) These stories live and die on the notion of dramatic irony. With the case of I Want You Back, we know that these two have created a web of lies and relationships that will eventually come back to bite them in the butt. While my guess of exactly how this movie was going to play out wasn't exactly accurate, we all saw the consequence of these lies succeeding. But the film doesn't take the A-B path that I expected it to. These characters, who have done something wrong, don't really autocorrect their bad behavior, leading to hopeless mad love. When Peter gets Anne back, I thought that it would instantly be something that would weigh heavily on his heart. Not so much. He actually enjoys the spoils of his labor. I acknowledge that he wishes that he could have Emma in his life, but that isn't a dealbreaker for him. It's only when he meets her again and things start falling apart that he begins to like Emma for real. It's not like he was pining for her. He simply realized how Anne paled in comparison to Emma.
Can we talk about how an ending like this one is the only one that works for a good rom-com? I don't want to see how madly in love they are because it has become trite. I think the smartest thing is to do what I Want You Back did: leave it up to the audience. (My wife is convinced that there might have been a post-credit sequence. I actually turned it off too early because I normally wanted to check, but I had to make sure that the kid was asleep way past his bedtime.) It has this great callback that may seem a little hackneyed. But that's what rom-coms are. Everything is a bit hackneyed. But that actually brings me to my main epiphany.
I'm the last person coming to this realization, but a good rom-com lives or dies by its cast. It's probably why I hate so many rom-coms. So many rom-coms are filled with people that do rom-coms. It's especially why I hate Hallmark movies. (Yeah, I said it. I'll say it again. I know that there is a devoted fandom and I tell people to like what they like...but there are so many good movies out there so what are you doing?) The reason that we picked this movie is because of Charlie Day and Jenny Slate. They're really funny and they have this amazing comic timing. It makes it tough for me to say if they had chemistry or not. I'm going to say that they did, but I also really wanted them to have chemistry. I may have accepted that they would make a good couple and not actually been a good couple. But because they have this specific brand of humor, it really works that the movie embraced it. I'm not saying that Charlie Day was playing his character from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I'm saying that Charlie Day likes having his films be just a little bit R-rated and a little bit weird. And that's what this movie is. When something absolutely bananas happens in the movie, it's accepted because they leads imbue its audience with the understanding that bizarre things can happen. Also, the world of rom-coms tends to be completely divorced from reality. This is just a thing.
I have to accept that there will probably never be another Annie Hall. But there are La La Lands out there and that's something new. What makes a good rom-com is that it isn't like the massive pool of other movies. I don't know if I Want You Back necessarily breaks new ground, but it also isn't directly ripping off other rom-coms directly. Sure, there's a little bit of When Harry Met Sally in there that I can't ignore. But what actually happens in the film is just the right amount of surprising to make it fun. That's not even something that happens in rom-coms. That is just something for comedies. Watching Jenny Slate make her way through "Somewhere That's Green" is just precious as get-out. It's this combination of hilarious and sweet that is just this tonal perfection that makes me both reaffirm Slate as a comedian and impress me as an actor. It's so good.
It's not an amazing movie, but it has heart in all of the right places.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.