There’s life left in the rom-com template, even if Hollywood pushed most of these romances off to streaming services.
Case in point: “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” a rom-com checking all the genre boxes sans apology.
- The wacky/supportive best friends
- The singular gimmick which brings the couple together
- The meet cute moment
- It’s set in, where else, New York City
- That third act wrinkle that forces the lovers apart
And, of course, the usual array of woke nods to let you know it’s a 2020 feature film. Sigh.
Geraldine Viswanathan is Lucy, a 20-something who just got dumped—and lost her job—in one cruel stroke. She shares her fate with what she thinks is a very patient Uber driver. Turns out it’s just a random stranger with a sympathetic ear.
Meet cute alert—with a dash of creepy!
That’s Nick (“Stranger Things” mullet head Dacre Montgomery), a budding entrepreneur trying to recreate the New York facade he fell for years earlier. They clumsily team up to work on Nick’s project, with Lucy contributing what could be its social media salvation—a gallery dedicated to the junk that lovers save when their relationships collapse.
It’s enough of a gimmick to hang a movie romance on, especially given previous, excruciating examples (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” anyone?) Still, it’s weak tea dramatically speaking, and the concept only comes alive with subsequent video testimonials.
The “gallery” coaxes Lucy and Nick to spend every waking moment together. So when are they gonna kiss already?
Writer/director Natalie Krinsky (“Gossip Girls”) writes banter that’s almost up to the task at hand. That means the jokes are cute but not terribly funny. Much worse? Lucy is a brat in the first act, a prototypical Millennial with all the self-entitlement that demographic conjures. It’s a testament to Viswanathan that we eventually rally to her side, even as her larger than life shtick grates on us.
Montgomery has an easier task, letting his quiet charisma and signature brooding carry his character.
Of course Lucy and Nick have best friends to cheer them on. For Lucy, it’s a pair of roommates who ladle on empowerment like an Italian grandma pushing seconds on her famous lasagna. Nick’s best bud (Arturo Castro) deserves more screen time, if only because Nick’s back story is hopelessly blurred.
There’s a forced detour to meet Lucy’s mother, and a dramatic hurdle that could be explained away in a heartbeat, a la “Three’s Company.” Still, we’re adhering to the strict Rom-Com FormulaTM. Complaining about such moments is like whining that a horror movie character makes a bone-headed decision.
This being a Hollywood product circa 2020, the movie serves up some eye-roll moments for the unwoke crowd. One character delivers a love poem to … President Barack Obama. A street poll taker champions “reproductive rights.”
The micro-moments take you right out of the story. They can’t derail the romance under way.
Love conquers all, even on the big screen.
HiT or Miss: “The Broken Hearts Gallery” starts with a whimper, but the endearing leads and adherence to rom-com norms will win you over.
A version of this article appears on HollywoodInToto.com.