In mid-July, Netflix released the trailer for its new original rom-com, “Love at First Sight,” which was underwhelming. The film struggled to break out of the classic rom-com box that encapsulates other classics, from “Clueless” to “Jerry Maguire,” and as a result, was mediocre.
The storyline surrounds two characters who meet as strangers on a flight from New York to London.
From the moment they meet, they are presented as foils. Hadley, a 20-year-old American girl flying to London for her dad’s wedding, is chronically late and afraid of three things: mayonnaise, small spaces and dentists – while Oliver, a British student studying at Yale, is flying home for his mom’s memorial, which she’s holding before she dies of cancer (so she can experience it while she’s alive).
The movie immediately begins with bonding experiences – a mutual disgust of mayonnaise and a terrified Hadley, who grabs Oliver’s hand in fright. In this sense, the movie does well on its promise of “Love at First Sight.”
The film also shows potential in its examination of family problems. The contrast between familial love and romantic love raises deep questions. Hadley is dealing with her parents’ divorce while Oliver is facing his mother’s death.
As the movie progresses, these family issues and relative instability force the characters to confront their own spark, which has blossomed over the course of a few hours.
Ultimately, the emotionality of the movie drags viewers in, but, according to viewer Stephanie Dickenson, “I needed a break from the emotional whiplash.”
Despite its strengths, the writers’ attempts to pull away from a curb littered with familiar plot points were feeble at best. At its core, the film unfortunately reeked of corniness; a property that rendered it likable, though not downright awful. From characters that are polar opposites to unrestricted quirkiness to a normative pair of heterosexual characters that grow to like each other suddenly, corniness is a hallmark of the film.
While rom-coms have grown over the years to encompass a variety of subgenres – teen rom-coms, action rom-coms and rom-com musicals to name a few, all share a few features: emotional turmoil, drama and exuberant reunions.
However, in a strong rom-com, the plot-predictability is a given; it’s the shell that surrounds the intertextual plot that gives the film its place on the podium. Take “Clueless” as an example. The movie is predictable beyond argument, but the unique charismas of Alicia Silverstone’s and Paul Rudd’s characters, as well as the captivating ‘90s setting, elevate the film beyond the conventional rom-com high school setting.
However, the writers’ attempts to accomplish this in “Love at First Sight” ended with the discussions of family dynamics.
In the end, viewers are watching for more than just a philosophical discussion. We want in-depth context. Ultimately, lack of differentiation meant that viewers were really only left to chew on an unsurprising series of events, which meant that the movie’s criticisms were directed at its plot.
“Overall, the plot would’ve been better if it wasn’t so corny. And I’m being generous about the plot here,” said Ishan Suman when providing remarks on the lukewarm film.
Viewers shouldn’t discard a rom-com solely because its plot is obvious. Plenty of great rom-coms could be deciphered light-years before an ending in sight. But when nothing encases the plot to give the film a distinct flavor, viewers’ high expectations are left to fall on the plot. It’s this course of events that “Love at First Sight” falls upon, and it’s this sequence that leads to a critique of likability at best.