I Want You Back (2022)
I Want You Back (2022)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: February 11th, 2022 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jason Orley Actors: Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, Luke David Blumm, Isabel May

 


 

“L

ook… I met someone.” Chatty Emma (Jenny Slate) is enamored with her boyfriend Noah (Scott Eastwood), but he’s in the process of breaking up with her during lunch. Simultaneously, at a big birthday gathering, agitated Annie (Gina Rodriguez) proceeds to break up with blindsided boyfriend Peter (Charlie Day). These two relationships fall apart in comparable ways; Noah feels as if he’s advancing in his life faster than Emma, while Anne is stuck in a small, stagnating existence with Peter. And both separations are painful and awkward. “It’s completely out of nowhere!”

Emma and Peter take it pretty roughly; many sleepless nights and shed tears interfere with their days shortly thereafter, notably spilling over into their careers (a receptionist at an orthodontics office and a VP at a retirement home company, respectively). As they step out of their workplaces into a stairwell to openly weep over being dumped, the two run into each other, trade stories, and decide to commiserate that evening at a karaoke bar. During their drunken revelry, they agree to call one another every time they have the urge to contact their exes – an arrangement they hope will be more emotionally constructive than caving to their anxieties over lost lovers – chiefly by keeping tabs on the very quick relationships that their exes subsequently jump into. “We’re intercepting each other’s sadness.”

As these types of Valentine’s Day releases go, the two people who aren’t initially interested in each other are clearly meant to be together. But they’ll have to go through a number of hurdles to realize it. As a moderately amusing twist on “Strangers on a Train” (the characters somewhat misjudgingly reference “Cruel Intentions,” though it does have a seduction angle), Emma and Peter plot to ingratiate themselves into the lives of each other’s exes, and then seduce them, aiming to coax them back into their old relationships. This setup is accomplished through plenty of montages, though it stops intermittently for some comical exchanges, laced with vulgarities and offbeat sexual commentary. Despite being a somewhat lighthearted premise, the two leads’ plan is actually quite abhorrent from the perspective of manipulation and dishonesty.

Fortunately, however, Emma and Peter aren’t inherently evil people; they may want to engage in underhanded practices in a shortsighted attempt to rekindle faded flames, but they can’t help but to be friendly, kindhearted, and genuine – even amid the subterfuge. Part of that is thanks to the script, which is careful to balance the casual deception and their unavoidable good natures, but the majority of it is Day and Slate playing personas nicely molded around the veteran comedians’ typical roles. There are a couple of expectedly over-the-top, fantasy-oriented, slapstick-like sequences, perhaps better suited for “American Pie”-type fare, but the humor is relatively consistent, maintaining only a slight elevation over the realism of believable heartbreak. Exaggerated blundering does arise, but it’s generally orchestrated around lessons about love – the kinds that are obvious and don’t need to be demonstrated by absurdities, yet are nevertheless engaging in the process (even if it carries on too long for a comedy-heavy romance). The last act follows standard rom-com formulas a touch too closely, threatening to lose the agreeableness from before, but it’s never quite ludicrous enough to ruin the mood. And, of course, the resolution wisely creates some considerable hiccups (paired with contrivances that are unconvincingly cinematic); it can’t (and shouldn’t be) a smooth road to epiphanies – and to the finale that audiences want and surely anticipate.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10