TV-14, but let's have a conversation about that, shall we? This movie isn't a traditional raunchy movie. Tonally, it actually feels like a traditional rom-com. But there's language. There's some pretty dirty content hidden in a feel-goodery movie. This rating is almost exclusively because it doesn't feel like a dirty movie, despite the fact that it kind of is. TV-14? For shame! For shame, Set It Up!
DIRECTOR: Claire Scanlon
Ugh. Like, really, Set It Up? We have been on a quest to find a great rom-com that isn't one of the old standard. I know a lot of genres are teeming with lazy examples of what someone could do with a movie. I have to guess that horror, action, and rom-coms have a minority of great movie and just a wealth of garbage movies. But I think rom-coms might be the worst. Don't worry, folks. I saw a great rom-com last night, so I know that they do exist. But Set It Up bored my wife, who LOVES rom-coms. How can a movie just be so lazy? I tend to get excited for the term "Netflix Original", but I don't know why. I think it is because the movie couldn't get distribution in theaters. "Netflix Original" might just mean "Direct to DVD" nowadays.
Before I go into a whole gripe session that will anger everyone who forgives rom-coms for all kinds of cinematic crime, there are things that make the movie not-the-worst. Zoey Deutch (a name I have to write out on Independence Day) seems like she has a degree of acting chops. Considering that she's the lead of the movie along with Glen Powell's Charlie, that's not the worst. She's extremely compelling and selling some really hard to say-with-a-straight-face lines pretty well. I kind of feel like this was supposed to be one of her big acting breaks and she's not skimping on the attempt to make this one of the best movies ever. Anything that goes wrong in this movie has nothing to do with her. Like, her character kind of sucks. But she's not letting what's left on the page define her character. Glen Powell also does an okay job. I'm already getting into my nay-saying, because he doesn't really get his character with any degree of subtlety. Like, Deutch is really trying, but Powell is simply at a 10 all the time. I will say that I like Pete Davidson (Not Peter Davison...that's the Doctor). Apparently he's on SNL and you can tell that he gets comic timing. He turns some really yawners into some great jokes. Every single one of his scenes are my favorite in the movie. Conceptually, I also think that there could have been a movie made out of this. Rom-coms don't exist in any degree of reality. They have their own fantasy rules and regulations and I have no problem with that. So the idea that two assistants can get their bosses to date so they get time off isn't the worst idea. The idea that those assistants then fall in love is not an awful idea as well. This movie's got bones and that's not bad for a first draft. It's really in its execution that it all falls apart.
And boy-oh-boy, does it fall apart. There is a special prize for two people who make a bad movie worse. These people had an easy job: they had to be famous and turn in a B+ performance. I'm not asking for the world from these people. I'm sure that they were reading the room and saw that this movie was going to be a bit of a stinker, so they phoned it in. But they're not allowed to phone their performances in. They are probably making the most money out of anyone on this project, so they really should be trying hard. If you didn't figure it out, I'm talking about Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs. Okay, special honorable mention goes to Taye Diggs. Lucy Liu isn't great. There are moments where it looks like she's trying and having a moderately good time. But Taye Diggs just seems to have this disdain about where his career has taken him. He's so bad in this movie. There aren't levels. You want Taye Diggs as a grumpy guy? He's going to yell at one level for the whole movie. The grumpy character could be the most compelling guy in the movie? I mean, look what Hugh Laurie did with House for years. There's no reason to flat perform the entire movie. He's terrible at the deliveries throughout the film. Liu seems a little deer in headlights; Diggs hate-performs the whole movie. If he had a good time on set and tried his best, I would be shocked. He's in a lot of the movie. Like, a lot of the movie. Not one of his jokes lands. It's really bad. These celebrities are the reason that people are turning into this Netflix Original. No one, shy of Pete Davidson, has any fame. This feels pretty shoestring, so you'd think that the celebrities would try. Nope. Sheer garbage the entire movie. This might explain part of Glen Powell's performance. When a show sucks, I always notice that one actor tries to overcompensate. Diggs and Powell share a lot of scenes together and I feel like Powell just has nothing to play off of. I'm sure Powell's choices are exclusively "high energy" so he can save every scene. I have a bit of sympathy for that.
I also don't really like the characters all that much. There are a couple really strong themes and character choices in the movie. I think that these are to give the movie some meat, but they aren't really developed. Like Digg's obsession with steak tartar, these decisions are very undercooked. (Boom! That's why I get paid the no-bucks.) One of the more superficial choices that I don't like is Harper's obsession with sports. I don't know if this is one of the writer's personal traits so they attached it to Harper. The movie keeps mentioning sports and sports obsession and it really doesn't play out into anything of substance. The only tie it has is the Kiss Cam, which is almost removed from Harper's character. There are all these bits tied to the idea that Harper cries at beautiful sports moments, but it never really resolves in the story in any meaningful way. I wonder if someone might think that it might make her cute, but I don't get it. This also gets to Harper's obsession with pizza that comes out of nowhere. In this film, either a character choice is introduced from the beginning and has no real resolution, or it comes out of nowhere for the sake of the story at that moment. Harper gets drunk and gets obsessive about a pizza. It is a very hard left for this character and it's charming in isolation. Honestly, a short film about a girl trying to find a good pizza in the middle of the night that leads into a quasi-date would be cute in itself. It just had no place in this movie. It doesn't show much of her personality and it's really weird that it is the moment that Charlie finds her interesting. She has all of these real personality traits that should be explored. Like, that sports crying thing could have played out with Charlie revealing a special sports memory with his dad and they could have shared that moment. It would have tied the whole thing together, but it wouldn't have been an attempt at humor. (Side note about rom-coms: cute is often confused for being a joke. The pizza moment was a cute moment that was trying to get me to laugh, but there's nothing all that funny about it.) Also, there's a repeated idea that Charlie is only a corporate stooge; that he's been ignoring his true passion for the sake of making money and getting ahead. Fine, this could be a great character arc. But shouldn't the writer have come up with something for him to love ahead of time. You can't call someone soulless or a sell-out who doesn't actually have anything to sell out. Not everyone who is in business is unhappy. The idea that Charlie should abandon that just because it isn't what he dreamed he would be doing is only a half-idea. Give him a passion that he's been neglecting. That makes it a true statement. But Charlie ends the movie as uncooked dough. He needs something to fall back on.
The movie also has this real crime of telling and not showing. We are told that Charlie's girlfriend is vapid and heartless, but she's only gotten into one argument the entire movie over something that Charlie genuinely kind of sucks at. Charlie's roommate says that his girlfriend sucks, but she seems like an okay person until the point where she's not a good person. Also, there's this subplot involving engaged friends. The movie stresses that we should really care about these people. They apparently are very important to Harper and there's all this stuff that we are told about the importance of this couple, but they're barely on screen. They actually seem to be better developed characters than some of the primary characters. I wonder if this movie got completely reworked in the editing bay because there are some absolutely bananas choices for what actually made the cut.
This movie is a hot mess. I'll be reviewing another Netflix Original that I actually liked quite a bit hopefully pretty soon. But I enjoyed savaging a movie on Independence Day. It was a good time. I hate myself that this is what brings me joy, but it is the truth. This movie is no good and I'm proud to stand by that statement.
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.