I WANT YOU BACK (2022) – Romantic Comedy is Sincere, Honest, and Very Funny

0

Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a romantic comedy that gets nearly everything right.

I WANT YOU BACK (2022), a new Amazon original movie, works because unlike a lot of other recent comedies, it doesn’t get bogged down with over-the-top vulgar humor or lose its way with unrealistic situations for the sake of trying to be funny. The script by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger in spite of its comedic shenanigans remains rooted in reality which results in a surprisingly fresh take on love and relationships in the here and now.

The movie opens with two break-ups. Noah (Scott Eastwood) breaks up with Emma (Jenny Slate) after a six-month relationship, as Noah feels like Emma just doesn’t have her life figured out, and he wants to move on to someone who does. Anne (Gina Rodriguez) breaks up with Peter (Charlie Day) after a six-year relationship because she feels he is stuck, and she wants to pursue her hopes and dreams, but feels she won’t be able to as long as she is with Peter.

Shortly thereafter, Emma and Peter happen to meet in the stairwell of their office building, as they work for different businesses on different floors inside the same building. They’re both in the stairwell crying over their break-ups, and they strike up a conversation. Later they agree to go out for drinks, and they get plastered as they commiserate. They agree to become each other’s “sadness sisters,” meaning that to help each other resist the urge to call their exes, they will call each other instead. Later, when they learn that both Noah and Anne are seeing new people, they come up with a plan to break up each relationship, hoping that this will lead to Noah and Anne “coming to their senses” and returning to Emma and Peter.

So, Emma volunteers at the middle school where Anne teaches English to insert herself in between Anne and her new crush, the drama teacher there, Logan (Manny Jacinto). Meanwhile, Peter joins the gym where Noah works and allows Noah to become his personal trainer in the hopes of becoming best buddies so he can help guide Noah away from his new girlfriend Ginny (Clark Backo) and back to Emma. Let the comedic games begin!

And while Emma proves very adept at being the seductress and getting in between Logan and Anne, Peter finds his job more difficult as Noah turns out to be an incredibly nice guy, and the two become real friends, and most importantly, Noah is really in love with Ginny.

I WANT YOU BACK is full of so many moments that work, from genuine sincere moments, like Emma’s friendship with a troubled middle school boy, to hilarious comedic ones, as in the sequence where Peter and Noah allow themselves to be picked up by a group of women at a club. Or the scene where Peter finds himself trapped in the bedroom when Noah plans to propose to Ginny. Everything plays out in satisfying fashion, including the climax, which takes place at a wedding on a river boat which brings Peter, Anne, Emma, Logan, Noah, and Ginny all together, and the ending, which the film gets right.

I really enjoyed I WANT YOU BACK, and I was probably most impressed by the screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. First off, I laughed a lot during this movie, which is the true indicator of how good a comedy is. The writing and dialogue were spot on. The conversation between Peter and Emma, for instance, over whether you should put on your own oxygen mask first or put the mask on your loved one first on a plane is a keeper.

Director Jason Orley makes sure we get to know all the characters well, especially the four main ones. The film takes its time fleshing out these folks, and the movie is better for it. Part of the reason the comedy works so well is that we know the characters, and what they are thinking and feeling. The situations are also genuinely amusing.

Charlie Day is very funny as Peter, the nice guy who Emma says is the type of man someone could fall in love with… over a long period of time. And while he’s not sure how to take that, she says it’s a compliment, that the “slow burn” guys are the best. What I liked best about Day’s performance here is it never becomes too over-the-top. He keeps Peter grounded in reality which actually makes the guy even funnier.

Jenny Slate is equally as good as Emma. She has the arduous task of playing a quirky character who most people just don’t understand, but she succeeds in getting the audience to understand Emma. And as Emma, she gets most of the best scenes in the movie.

Scott Eastwood exudes sincerity as Noah, and it’s one of Eastwood’s best performances yet. Noah could have been such a cliche character: the dumb hunk, the handsome guy who tries to be loving but sucks at it, or the complete jerk. But Noah is none of these things. He really is a decent, insightful person. The scene at the club where he says he can’t go too far because of Ginny but gets drunk anyway and goes home with the women along with Peter, is ripe for him to fail at keeping his word, but things don’t play out that way. He even has a poignant conversation later with Emma saying that she never seemed happy with him and that they had so little in common, and so he asks her point blank why she thought he was her true love? And Emma answers that she just wanted the process to be over, she wanted to have found somebody so badly. It’s a wonderfully sincere and honest moment, and I WANT YOU BACK is full of similar moments just like this.

Gina Rodriguez draws the short straw with Anne, as she is probably the least likable of the four characters, as she seems the shallowest. But she still gets to enjoy some sincere moments as well.

Manny Jacinto also enjoys some fine moments as Logan, the middle school drama teacher who really wants to be working on Broadway. And Luke David Blumm is very good as the middle school student who Emma befriends and helps out with.

I WANT YOU BACK is that rare comedy which understands that realistic, honest situations can be just as funny as over-the-top exaggerated ones, sometimes even more so.

If you’re looking for a satisfying romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day, look no further than I WANT YOU BACK.

It’s the perfect match.

—END—

THE OUTPOST (2020) – Story of U.S. Soldiers Battling Taliban Solid Yet Unremarkable

1

If you like war movies without fanfare that simply focus on the intense horrors of war, then THE OUTPOST (2020) may be the movie for you.

Directed by Rod Lurie with a screenplay by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, based on the book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper, THE OUTPOST tells the story of a small group of U. S. soldiers encamped in an outpost in Afghanistan which is so poorly located it isn’t funny. Surrounded completely by immense mountains, the soldiers are constantly at the mercy of the hundreds of Taliban soldiers in the mountains who fire on them daily in the hope of some day overtaking the camp.

As such, the soldiers understand that while on paper their mission is to mingle with the locals in order to win their hearts and minds, their real mission is simply to survive. And that’s really what THE OUTPOST is all about: survival.

There really isn’t a strong narrative or deep character development. The plot of THE OUTPOST simply follows the soldiers inside Camp Keating where they engage in daily banter until they are fired upon and are forced to defend themselves, trying their best not to die.

As such, the bulk of this film is not all that enjoyable because you don’t really get to know any of the characters and there’s not much of a story. What you do get is an appreciation for the stress and anxiety these soldiers go through on a daily basis. One reason a film like 1917 (2019) worked better is it chose to focus on two main characters throughout the movie and audiences saw the larger story through their eyes. That doesn’t really happen here in THE OUTPOST.

However, the film held my interest long enough to get me to the climactic battle when the Taliban finally descend upon the camp in an all out attack. This final battle is by far the best part of the movie and lifts this one to worthwhile viewing status. It’s extremely cinematic.

The sound editing and mixing throughout THE OUTPOST is impressive, and no more so during the climactic sequence. It sounded like missiles were flying through my living room!

If there is a main character in THE OUTPOST, it’s SSG Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood), as he is in this film throughout. You don’t really learn all that much about him though, and he doesn’t really shine until the climax. As such, Eastwood, who’s Clint Eastwood’s son, is fine throughout but isn’t asked to do a whole lot until the final reel.

Perhaps this movie should have been entitled SON OF THE OUTPOST. See, in addition to Scott Eastwood, the cast also includes Milo Gibson, Mel Gibson’s son— James Jagger, Mick Jagger’s son— Will Attenborough, Richard Attenborough’s grandson— and Scott Alda Coffey, grandson of Alan Alda. Wow!

The one other character who comes close to being a main one is SPC Ty Carter (Caleb Landry Jones), a rather unhinged character who like Eastwood’s Clint Romesha, doesn’t really do a whole lot until the final battle. Caleb Landry Jones is a talented actor who has enjoyed some memorable roles in such films as THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) and GET OUT (2017). He’s very good here as well, especially in the film’s climax.

Orlando Bloom has a small role as a commanding officer who dies early on. The commanding officers at Camp Keating don’t fare so well. Their survival rate is nil, it seems.

Director Rod Lurie does an excellent job capturing the insane anxiety felt by everyone at the camp, and also does an awesome job with the film’s explosive conclusion.

The screenplay by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, based on true events, does the same, but falters with a lack of any kind of character development or plot pacing. The characters all have names but we know little about them, and other than their constant need to defend themselves against the surrounding Taliban soldiers, there’s nothing else driving the story forward. This may be the point, but it makes for labored viewing. The film runs for two hours and really doesn’t hit its stride until 90 minutes in.

Still, it successfully shows the viewer how horrifying and hellish soldiering can be.

I liked THE OUTPOST. For two thirds of the film it felt like a documentary, and then it stepped up its game with an intense conclusion that is second to none. I just wish it had done a better job developing its characters so that we had more reason to care for them other than the obvious one, that they were soldiers doing their jobs and making the ultimate sacrifice. So, you definitely care for these guys. You just don’t know them.

A more personal emotion connection to these men would have made the ending all the more powerful.

As it stands, THE OUTPOST is solid viewing, a sincere yet unremarkable take on soldiers at war.

—END—