- Love, Guaranteed
- Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
- Written by Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett
- Starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Damon Wayans Jr. and Heather Graham
- Classification N/A; 90 minutes
There is an entertaining, energetic and zippy boy-meets-girl movie making its debut on Netflix this Friday. The only catch is it’s the fake rom-com about a waitress and her hapless suitor that’s nestled inside Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Kaufman’s movie-within-a-movie, which is one big joke about the superficiality of Hollywood productions, is intentionally made to look like a piece of generic rom-com nothingness. Yet the faux-film is a work of next-level genius compared to Netflix’s very-real rom-com offering this week: Love, Guaranteed.
In director Mark Steven Johnson’s tale of romance in the age of Tinder, jokes land with a thud, characters arrive as if sketched on single-ply toilet paper, and copious stock-footage shots of Seattle attempt to visually pad out the run-time to barely feature-length. Like some of Netflix’s other recent fly-by-night offerings, Love, Guaranteed is not so much an actual movie as it is a Charlie Kaufman joke taken one step too far.
If none of this dissuades you, then perhaps its Mad Libs-y plot synopsis will. To save her struggling law firm, do-gooder lawyer Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) takes on a fishy case from the slick Nick (Damon Wayans Jr.), who wants to sue a Tinder-like dating service over its failure to live up to its guarantee of love by the time a client hits 1,000 dates. Will Susan and Nick fall in love? Will their romance jeopardize the case? Will someone utter the line, “Am I right ladies?” with zero irony? Your honour, I plead the fifth.
And before anyone pulls out the “guilty pleasure” card – no. There is zero pleasure here, no matter how low your bar is currently set. Only pain. So much pain.
Some of the performers, though, hide their agony better than others. Cook, who is best-known for her early-aught teen-movie heyday of She’s All That and Josie and the Pussycats, cuts an instantly likable presence but seems oblivious that her dialogue wouldn’t pass for a 3 a.m. “u up?” text thread. Wayans, who is usually a sitcom’s sharpest comedic weapon, seems sadder to be here. At least Heather Graham, playing the Gwyneth Paltrow-like founder of the dating service, is both energetic and afforded the best lines (which, again, aren’t all that great to begin with).
So, if you somehow happen to find yourself watching this while swiping left and right, take some advice from Charlie Kaufman instead and just ... think of ending things.
Love, Guaranteed is available to stream on Netflix starting Sept. 3
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