I love a good romantic comedy. There was a period in the early 2000s when there wasn’t one I hadn’t seen, and that was back in the day when they were still making a LOT of romantic comedies – medium budget movies that brought in a decent amount of money. The problem lies in the idea that you can either release these movies that have a smaller audience (men in general tend not to go see rom-coms), or you can spend a lot of money and reap a big reward in something like a super hero movie which will pull in both men AND women. As soon as the studios decided it had to be one or the other, you got far fewer of this type of movie coming from the major studios. The article I link to says that you can still get romantic comedies released, they just tend to be from an indie label like “Obvious Child” and “The Big Sick”, both of which are twists on the romantic comedy, and both of which I saw and really enjoyed.
So when the movie “Set It Up” was released by Netflix this year, people started freaking out. One, because it’s a streaming service-original movie that is actually good and enjoyable (and not in an ironic way), but because they think it marks the return of the romantic comedy to a place of prominence. A romantic comedy which celebrates the style and tropes of romantic comedies? Come to mama.
Unfortunately, we need to focus on that last word I used: mama. Because I’ve got that baby girl now, I cannot just spend a lazy Saturday afternoon watching a movie. I mean, I could, but it would be with a baby girl on my lap, and we are trying to limit her TV exposure. So the times I am able to watch TV or movies now are the times when a) I am away from her (and that tends to be mostly for work or non-TV-outings), or b) she is asleep. Most of the time when she’s asleep, if I want to watch something, it will end up being with the Boy, because this is one way we can spend time together – watching a show together that we can also talk about when she’s awake. But this is not a movie he would be interested in. But because he travels for work, and because he has a favorite band that is currently on tour (along with other bands that he wants to see that are of less interest to me), I have some free evenings to myself. So when Phish was at Merriweather Post Pavilion recently, I decided to take my opportunity to watch some of the Netflix movies that wouldn’t be interesting to the Boy, this being the first among them.
The story is fairly simple: Harper and Charlie are in their late 20s, serving as assistants to high-powered Kirsten and Rick (respectively), but both are overworked, and looking to find a way to reduce their hours and maybe advance professionally. The discover that both their bosses work late nights and are highly driven, so they decide to “set it up”, and give them a meet-cute in an elevator in hopes that the bosses will start dating and cut them some slack. Needless to say something goes wrong, and it’s very funny, but eventually the bosses hook up. And then…then we get the twist. I won’t spoil it. The movie is short, it’s very accessible, you don’t need me to tell you how it ends.
It really is fluffy and enjoyable, and there is little in this movie that makes me cringe into a ball of awkward pain the way that scenes in other romantic comedies can sometimes do. There are lots of fun moments, and if you’ve spent time in the touristy parts of New York City in the past decade, there are places you will recognize. The acting is also well done, with the actually famous Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs in the roles of the bosses, while Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell are adorable and have terrific chemistry as the young assistants at the center of our tale. The movie is not hard hitting, it is not seriously thought-provoking (unless you are, or are in a relationship with someone who works entirely too much), and it is not going to change lives. And maybe that’s why romantic comedies fell out of fortune – they weren’t unreal enough to feel like alternatives, but not real enough during a time when the world was starting to change in a hopeful direction. In these times now when the real world is crazy and head-shaking on a regular basis, what we the movie-viewer want is escape, and that is exactly what Set It Up does. It will give you a light-hearted break from the world for a few hours while you watch it, and you will return feeling more prepared to take on life.
It’s almost like it’s capable of bestowing super-powers, and how many comic book movies can do that for their watchers?
Details: Set it Up, written by Katie Silberman, directed by Claire Scanlon. Streaming on Netflix.