TV-MA and almost entirely for language. Like, I'm borderline shocked. Most rom-coms, especially ones that have the TV-MA or R-rating, are mostly that way for sexuality. This movie is almost completely devoid of it. I say, "Almost" because the last minute of the movie address it through dialogue. So close! Also, there's some very specific murder that happens in this movie. It gets weirdly dark. But then the movie takes a real hard dark turn when it talks about suicide. Despite almost a complete lack of sexuality, this movie definitely deserves the TV-MA rating.
DIRECTOR: Alex Lehmann
It's a time-travel movie! Of course I'm going to have a lot to say about this movie! I want to get something personal about the movie out of the way first. How am I the only one who thinks that this movie is a brilliant premise and that everyone should watch it? I've tried to sell other people into watching this movie either with me or simultaneously. Nothing. My wife sat through it while looking at her phone, which isn't the most glowing review of a film. Yet, I'm leaving this movie thinking it is one of the best movies that I've watched this year. Yeah. I think this is a unique experience for me. Is Pete Davidson so unlikable by people that they can't watch a rom-com starring him? I think he's great. He makes me laugh a lot. So he dated Kim Kardashian! Big whoop! He's a guy with a genius sense of timing and the two have massive chemistry. That's what I need in a rom-com and I got it.
I want to nitpick first because it is all shallow stuff. I'm probably going to give this movie five stars on Letterboxd, so keep that in mind. I'm actually expecting for it to be reviewed poorly, based on the fact that it is teetering with a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I have to be honest, it wasn't perfect. First, the title? That is the most corporate title I've ever seen. Was there another title before this? Maybe something that had to do with time travel? If not, it follows the trend of rom-coms picking remarkably forgettable titles. Yeah, I know that Sheila is reliving their first encounter over-and-over again. But will I remember that title down the line? No. It's burying itself with a completely forgettable piece of nonsense like Something's Gotta Give or Happy Valentine's Day. Yeah, that's a criminally bad title. The last criticism (for now) is the fact that some of the jokes don't fit tonally with the movie. The movie, as I hope to discuss through this blog, has a dark indie twee tone to it. Often, the laughs come from the reactions that the two give to bizarre situations, contrasting the mundane reality to impossible scenarios. When the movie goes for an outright gag, such as Sheila becoming Uncle Charlie, it's kind of breaking the user agreement that the audience makes with the filmmakers.
I swear I'm going to go into what I liked about it soon, but I always feel the need to unpack the rules of time travel when it comes to time travel movies. For those who haven't read previous time travel movie blog entries by me, my general rule is that the filmmakers must disclose the rules of time travel and then work within the confines of those rules. The last thing that I told my wife before going to bed was my concerns for inconsistent time travel rules. If you want to know what it is like being married to me, this isn't the first time I've kissed my wife goodnight before pondering how time travel worked in certain movies. In the case of Meet Cute, it has to do with what is permanent. The big twist in the film, which I saw coming about thirty minutes before it happened, is that Gary was the cable guy the entire time. If you saw the movie, that moment would make a lick of sense. But it also established that Gary's time travel history left a permanent mark on Sheila. Okay, cool. That all scans with the fact that Time-Travel Sheila (who will be addressed as "Sheila" for the rest of the movie as opposed to Sheila-Prime, which is Sheila before time-travel) had to kill the Uncle-Charley-Sheila(okay, I'm going to need more monikers before this blog is over) to restore the timeline.
But that leaves me with the Sheila-Prime. One of my favorite gags, which got me really excited to see this movie, is that Sheila feels it necessary to kill Sheila-Prime in every leap (Note: I also just watched episode three of the new Quantum Leap show. When I start stealing jargon from other stories, just know that I'm easily influenced.) That's a great premise that creates a lot of problems. If Gary is able to be permanently part of Sheila's timeline through his time as the cable guy, wouldn't killing Sheila-Prime ultimately erase Sheila? Now, this took a while to come to grips with. After all, I really liked this time travel movie and I didn't want anything to be really wrong with it. But I came to the conclusion that the film can get away with it because the filmmakers never formally gave information on what to do in case of a paradox. My theory, which has no reason to be documented with the exception of filling in space and for the joy of writing, is that paradoxes will resolve themselves so the universe doesn't blow up. The universe, accounting for two Sheilas, probably prefers that one of them is dead so the timeline can't be altered beyond recognition. That's my best guess. If you are the other person who watched this movie, hit me up with your theories.
But what I like about Meet Cute is that it offers many of the same challenges that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind offered. The fusion of rom-com with sci-fi does some really interesting things. It tends to get a little bit more bleak. Instead of no consequences for actions, everything has a consequence, even in the face of a blank slate. Relationships are about real people, which is what rom-coms traditionally tend to ignore. While Sheila, --and, by proxy, Gary --are quirky in their own regards, their "quirks" are the effects of real trauma. I don't like the idea of relationships being perfect. Do I think that Sheila has some real issues that need to be resolved with a therapist? Absolutely. Do I think it might be dangerous to start a relationship with someone who is suicidal? Even more so. But these are people who are absolutely into each other. Gary, who really has the short end of the stick on this entire time travel experience, is someone who is this solid balance of empathy and vulnerability. He's also logical and cool in the face of real world mental illness.
Maybe that's why I'm such a fan of the movie. Yeah, there is some real thin ice in the movie and the characters are constantly walking all over it. The fact that the two take it slow is absolutely perfect for the sake of the relationship. I mean, from Gary's perspective, it isn't just taking it slow but is the bare minimum for being respectful. But the movie stresses companionship instead of sexual needs. Sheila, despite fearing the future of the couple, understands that she wants the infatuation period to continue on forever because she values connection with another human being. When we discover that she is suicidal, I kind of like that we don't find out what is the cause of those suicidal tendencies. What we're getting out of her character isn't a single moment. Rather, this is mental illness, defined. And similarly, the movie doesn't play with the notion that Gary is going to fix her. The relationship that they have isn't going to repair deep-seated mental illness. It acts as a support system for things that she will mostly likely battle her her entire life. Otherwise, it would just be placing Gary in a state of co-dependence that would act as a prison for him. No, the answer for the movie isn't "relationships will make things better". It's "tomorrow is always a chance for hope."
And with that, we don't know that Gary saw the future or didn't see the future. There's the implication that it was a strong bluff or simply that he was hopeful. But not knowing makes that moment all the moment more universal. If we saw the future with Sheila, the movie wouldn't really have anything to take from it. It would be that individual case. I actually love that Gary bluffs about the time machine acting as a potential roadmap. Does it mean that he doesn't believe that Sheila can make it? I don't get that vibe. He's cautiously optimistic about her chances and knows that she's strong enough to try. The whole nature of having an f-it attitude towards time travel, while potentially toxic, shows that she wants to succeed.
It's weird that I'm letting go of my morals for this movie. I know that Sheila is a truly awful person in this movie. The murder alone should be something I'm harping upon. The fact that there is something incredibly invasive about how she uses this time machine should bother me. But if I applaud vulnerability in a story, this movie absolutely is about being vulnerable. She does all of these things out of ignorance and desperation. There's that moment of repentance. Maybe she is incapable of realizing her many sins because she isn't watching her story in montage mode, like we are. But she does seem committed to change. That fixes a lot of things for me. It's not a Kylo Ren 180 like The Rise of Skywalker. Sheila is in a unique situation that no one's ever dealt with before. It should be taken into consideration when she's dealing with what is the equivalence of a philosophical hypothetical situation. Sure, she fails a lot of those things, but ultimately leans hard into the healthiest answer. Similar to Phil Connors's redemption in Groundhog Day, Sheila makes major growth in a very short time given few healthy options.
Do you realize how nervous I am to check the Letterboxd score for this? I hope it is better than I think it will be because I adored this film. Get ready to get dark and you'll be really happy.
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.