Romantic comedies rank high in a list of genres that are difficult to pull off. Glossy romantic fantasy tends fizzle under fairy tale idiocy, while real world love stories tend to be far too awkward and uncomfortable to push the right wish fulfillment buttons. As a result, most rom-coms mix and match elements from both extremes hoping that enough gentle laughs and shots of pretty actors kissing will seduce audiences into falling for decades-old traps. The British charmer ‘Love, Rosie’ combines enough tones that it can often fool viewers into thinking they’re watching something resembling real life. Unfortunately, too many of the clichéd contrivances that plague the genre pile up on the road to the finish line. Thankfully, it’s at least an amusing watch until that stumble.
The immensely charming Lily Collins stars as the titular Rosie, a whip-smart middle class English gal who has spent her entire childhood slowly falling in love with her best friend Alex (Sam Claflin). Their lives seem to be building up to a prom night love story, but it’s not to be, because they both make the mistake of going with other people. Rosie’s mistake is a little bigger than Alex’s given that she ends up pregnant. The friends had both planned to fly overseas to go to school in Boston, but Rosie stays behind to be a mom. From there, both end up in bad marriages that could have been avoided if the two kids would just finally admit that they love each other. Yet, they can’t. This is a tale of mistakes and near-misses despite undying love at the core. But love conquers all, right? Well, maybe not in real life, but this is a romantic comedy.
‘Love, Rosie’ gets off to be a pretty darn good start. Screenwriter Juliette Towhidi (adapting a novel by Cecelia Ahern) pitches the first hour or so with a nicely awkward sense of reality. Director Christian Ditter has a glossy stylized aesthetic presenting it, but that’s appropriate given that the leads are way too beautiful (not to mention too old) to come off as anything resembling real awkward teens, so the mix of style and mess is necessary. It’s actually rather refreshing how maturely the film handles teen pregnancy, infidelity and uncomfortable emotions with a gentle touch.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the film is a vehicle for Lily Collins, an actress who has made a career out of being the best part of bad movies. This is without a doubt her best performance and sadly also her best movie, even though it’s far from a fantastic achievement. It’s hard not to be charmed when Collins runs through a gamut of harsh emotions and awkward comedy, especially when the movie keeps up with her unpredictability.
Unfortunately, a romantic comedy can’t be all awkward elbows and heartbreak. At a certain point, all the missed connections pile up to a ludicrous degree and the clockwork plotting that will force them together becomes tediously predictable. ‘Love, Rosie’ is ultimately just another rom-com with all of the shampoo commercial lighting, shirtless frolicking, stupid slapstick, and thoroughly unbelievable plot twists that suggests. Granted, if you enjoy the genre for its faults as much as its charms, then it’s likely better than most. However, for anyone who likes a little real world messiness in their romance, the movie makes promises that it never delivers, and that makes the cheese infinitely more insufferable when it finally arrives.
Still, the first hour’s pretty good and Lily Collins has never been better or more beautiful, so it’s not all bad. ‘Love, Rosie’ could and should be worse. I guess that’s something.