Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Movie Review: SET IT UP (2018)

Quality romantic comedies are few and far between these days.  As the 90’s ended, so did the tidal wave of rom-coms (both good and bad) that saturated the market.  Occasionally we still get a decent one here and there, but they’ve become almost like an endangered species.  Luckily we have places like Netflix who aren’t afraid to throw a few out onto the table for the masses.  Earlier this year I watched one called When We First Met starring Adam Devine, and I found it to be enjoyable.  Was it a masterpiece? No, but very few rom-coms are, but it was a fun watch, and that’s exactly how I felt about Set It Up.  This was an enjoyable film to watch with some good performances and an interesting, though not unique, premise.

Set It Up tells the story of two overworked and underpaid corporate assistants (played by Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) who come up with a plan to get their bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) off their backs by setting them up with each other.  It’s a solid premise that, as I said, has been used in other films, but it’s the execution and performances that really make it shine. 

At the helm of this is Claire Scanlon, taking on her feature film directorial debut.  She has made a name for herself in the television world working on hit comedies such as The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Last Man on Earth, The Goldbergs, Fresh Off The Boat, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Her experience on these shows shines through in her ability to create dynamic relationships here.  And truth be told, rom-coms are nothing if the characters have no chemistry.  But what good is chemistry if the writing is bad?  And that’s where Katie Silberman comes into play, who is also making her feature film debut.  Silberman has been in the business for less than a decade and has primarily worked as a writer’s assistant on Ben and Kate and a co-producer on a few films.  So it’s wonderful to see her knock one out in her writing debut.

The chemistry between the main characters, Harper and Charlie, is fantastic, as Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell meshed perfectly together.  They never felt fake and the relationship never felt forced, and this is because of the stellar performances from both actors.  Since this is a rom-com, you knew they would end up together, or at least attempt to, but what I really liked was that they didn’t just dive right into it from the get-go.  The film builds toward it, and doesn’t do so in a cheesy, clich├ęd way.  Instead, they make it feel more natural.  Their journey from strangers who don’t care for each other, to co-workers, to friends, then to being in a relationship was done is such a wonderful fashion.  I wanted them to get together, but it wasn’t the main focus.  It was hidden behind this scheme to hook their bosses up, and that allowed it room to grow.

And speaking of their bosses, Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs perfectly played the roles of the overbearing, high strung, workaholics who are too self-absorbed to recognize how their actions affect other people.  And even though their chemistry wasn’t quite as palpable as is was between Harper and Charlie, that’s fine, because when all is said and done, this film isn’t really about them.  They are the catalyst that sparks the true romance of this romantic comedy.  They are the engine that drives it forward.  Harper and Charlie think that they are bringing their bosses together, but it winds up (inadvertently) being the other way around.

This is one of the better rom-coms I’ve seen in a while, and is one that people shouldn’t sleep on.  So if you have Netflix, definitely check this one out.  It’s a nice reinvention of a dying genre, and might just be the thing it needs to spring back.

The Merc’s Score:  7.5/10

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