Dallas Movie Screening

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Thursday, February 10, 2022

I Want You Back

Emma (Jenny Slate) is dumped by her boyfriend Noah (Scott Eastwood), and Peter (Charlie Day) is dumped by his girlfriend Anne (Gina Rodriguez). The break-ups play out simultaneously as the opening sequence of “I Want You Back.” Director Jason Orley, working from a screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, constantly cuts between the two couples, showing how each individual reacts to the situation. For Emma and Peter, that would be not well at all. Both thought they were with the person with whom they would spend the rest of their life.

The meet cute in this film occurs in an office building stairway. Emma and Peter happen to work in the same building. They both reach a point in their day where they can no longer take the pain of the breakup and retreat to the stairway for a good sob fest. That description doesn’t sound too funny but it is a humorous way for our main characters to meet. Although, some of the film’s humor comes across as forced.

They quickly form a bond, leading to the film’s main plot line. Each promise to help the other get their ex back. Both characters sink to new lows in their attempts to accomplish this feat. Peter attempts to befriend Noah in order to convince him to break-up with his new girlfriend, Ginny (Clark Backo), and Emma attempts to seduce Anne’s new boyfriend, Logan (Manny Jacinto), by volunteering to work on his middle school production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” The middle school play actually leads to some of the movie’s better bits.

Despite their despicable agendas, you still care about what happens to Emma and Peter. Slate and Day make their character’s heartbreak clear. They are two people struggling with how to move on with their lives. Both abruptly thrown back into the world of singledom and forced to watch their ex’s move on with new partners via social media. OK, forced probably isn’t the right word to use but what do you expect in this day and age when everyone posts their every moment on social media. Maybe Noah and Anne should have blocked them? Still, it’s clear that these two characters are in emotional anguish.

While the casting makes this a fun watch, there are some things about this film that just don’t work. There is, of course, the obligatory drunken karaoke scene. The one here feels never-ending. Do we really need more of these sequences? The same information could have been conveyed in a shorter time period and not bored us with Slate and Day’s lack of singing ability. The film meanders a bit in some places. At least it doesn’t always play out as expected, somewhat playing with the conventions of the romantic comedy genre.

Sidenote – there’s also a scene where Emma and Peter go to a movie (a screening of “Con Air”). The characters don’t even watch it. Instead, they sit in this crowded theater and carry on a full-on conversation. Why do filmmakers continue to play this up as acceptable theater-going behavior? There’s nothing more annoying than a fellow audience member who’s obviously not paying attention to the movie. I’m with the random theater goer here who shouts at them to shut up. Shouldn’t filmmakers want to discourage this? Why not have the characters go to a coffee shop or a bar for their chat?

Problems aside, I mostly enjoyed myself with this one. “I Want You Back” isn’t out to revolutionize the rom-com but there is enough humor and heart present to make this one a recommended watch.

(Review by Bret Oswald)

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