TV-14 for drug use and language. It seems like this would be an R / TV-MA. It's not like a million bad things happen in it. It's just a little bit on the vulgar side of things. I don't want to be Judge Judy here, but a lot of the movie is fine. But if we're talking about the intended audience, we're not really looking at fourteen-year-olds. I know. I'm a hypocrite. This is a movie for jilted old people who want to wallow. I'm sure that there are younger people who think that they relate, but it is aimed at the 17+ crowd. TV-14.
DIRECTOR: Ryan Eggold
We're running out of good streaming rom-coms. I think one of the most dangerous things about searching for impulsive rom-coms on streaming services is that we tend to pick by cast. There are some amazing independent casts in very boring independent movies. I'm going to give a list right now and you are going to understand why we picked this movie: Justin Long, Cobie Smulders, Lea Thompson, Kristen Schaal, Dana Delany, Charlene Yi, Ryan Hansen, and John Cho. I thought we had a winner on our hands. It's not that the movie was bad, but I think I'm starting to discover why I haven't heard of a lot of these rom-coms.
There's a subgenre of rom-coms. Literally, Right Before Aaron is a strong contender for the anti-rom-com. These are the movies that comment on the breakup and heartache of romance. These movies are the equivalent of listening to angry music after a breakup. I'm sure that there was a time in my white male privileged life that I would have gobbled up something like this without a second thought. I mean, there's a time in life when angsty breakup stuff seems to be the only thing that's worth watching. But these movies are really kind of vapid when you are happy. There are some weird flavors at Buffalo Wild Wings. (Stick with me.) Some people say, "Why do they make weird flavors?" But sometimes, we're just in the mood for that thing. I find it hard to judge the weirder flavors at Buffalo Wild Wings because I understand that there are times that I want those flavors. It just happens to be less than often. The same thing is true for the anti-rom-com. When one is happy, these movies come across like straight up sulking. Life is better than what this movie makes of it and it is kind of annoying to hear this kind of griping when the problems seem so easy to solve.
Part of what grinds my gears is that the problem is somewhat artificial. Do people really do this? Sure. I know that there are people who invite their recent exes to their weddings. It boggles the mind that people do this. I think some people live for drama. Some people just need everyone to like them. I guess I can't complain because I had an ex-girlfriend at my wedding, but that's just because she's one of my wife's best friends. I don't know what was going on here. The movie begs its audience to scream at the movie. There were times where we just said, "Don't go! This is a terrible idea." But the movie is aware that going to your recent ex's wedding is the dumbest thing that a person can do. Which means, I have to pose the question to Eggold, "Are we supposed to enter the movie with the knowledge that this is a dumb idea?" The movie ends remarkably bleakly. I realized about twenty minutes in that there was no scenario where Justin Long would have ended up with Cobie Smulders without completely wrecking her life. Our best case scenario for a happy ending really revolved around the idea that the movie had to convince me that Smulders leaving her fiancee would have been the best idea for everyone. I hate that ending so much. I told my wife about my pessimism to how this was going to end. It ended up even bleaker than I thought. The movie even gets so bleak that it rides the lines of what makes a comedy. Literally, Right Before Aaron isn't super hilarious. I laughed occasionally. I think I was more engaged in the chemistry of the characters and the interactions that made the time pass.
Because Literally, Right Before Aaron isn't boring. It's just kind of toxic. And indie filmmakers love flocking to this kind of stuff. I mean, even Charlene Yi was in the role that she's now becoming infamous for. She keeps getting these tiny roles as a platonic friend who is in the movie for practically a bit part. I think we can identify how indie something is by the amount of time that Charlene Yi is in the film. But Literally, Right Before Aaron kind of has its structure built for it. It's a little bit weird that there is so much gap between the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, but that's for narrative purposes. Adam only has a mild amount of sympathy going his way. I'm still not exactly sure why they broke up, but he seems like a horrible human being based on what we see in this film. So the movie really stresses how toxic good guy Adam deals with things he doesn't want to put up with. I'm not sure what version of reality Adam lives in. The movie sometimes treats the world as our world. There is regular drama and people have a hard time with each other. But the surrounding people in Adam's life are those of a quirky, larger-than-life comedy. The people at the rehearsal dinner are the worst. So Adam's sympathy isn't based on us feeling for him, so much as the worst people in the world are constantly poking at him until he snaps. It's fun, but it also is a muddled message.
What kind of person asks their immediate ex to come to her wedding? We don't really have a real understanding of Cobie Smulders's character throughout. A lot of the movie focuses on Adam and his toxic hangups that Allison comes across as a saint. But there are some major issues with Allison's characterization. Allison is a character who wants it all. She has a perfect guy and she wants Adam to get to know that perfect guy. First of all, a wedding is not the place to do that. Adam is also getting married. It is not his responsibility to get to know Allison's ex-boyfriend right now. He's apparently baking a major cake and getting to hang out with his friends. Also, spending one-on-one time with your ex the weekend of the wedding. There are moments where Allison leads him on. She's not the bad guy, but she's also far from being the good guy. Look at it from Aaron's perspective. (I just realized they all start with A). Her fiancee, whom he is about to marry, is getting all touchy-feely with her ex. What kind of issue is that? I get it. He trusts her. He should. But should he? Because of that trust, their wedding falls apart. I don't know if the end is supposed to be hilarious or what. I hope that Eggold was going for uncomfortable because that's what it really is. That moment wouldn't have happened if Allison didn't try riding the fence on her feelings with Adam. Maybe she's not ready to be married. That's completely reasonable. But it sounds like these two didn't have closure. The wedding was not the place to do this. It's just a bizarre, artificial choice. Yeah, everything bad that happens in the movie is Adam's fault. But Allison isn't doing the right thing. While Aaron should be angry at Adam, he also should distrust Allison because she was culpable for Adam's being there.
I don't know why Kristen Schaal's character is in the movie. I love her and she might be the funniest part of the film, but she adds nothing to the narrative. There's no moment of reality in the movie when it comes to her character. She's there for laughs and I get it. But a lot of the movie is stalling a movie that doesn't have a lot of substance. But that's fine. The movie, if you were in a bummer mood, would support a bummer mood. That's the point. It isn't for the happily married, like me. It's for the people who pride themselves in being aggressively single. Like all the drugs Adam takes in the final act of the film, this movie is a narcotic that only encourages an already established bias. But again, it's fine. It's got a good cast, so watch it for that, if nothing else.
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.