Katie Holmes used to have a very specific kind of appeal – the girl next door vibe, adorably awkward, and somehow accessible to the guys who weren’t James Van Der Beek, Tom Cruise, or Batman. But in the past few years, the sparkly Zooey Deschanel has straight up claimed that s…stuff. So what is an outdated Katie Holmes to do? Retire gently into that good night? Revamp her image with a pixie cut and/or sequined bras? No. Apparently, she just closes her eyes in denial and tries her hand at indie flicks.
Spoiler: it doesn’t work.
“The Romantics” follows a group of college friends who have reunited for a wedding. The tension comes because everyone – literally everyone – knows that the groom, Tom (Josh Duhamel), is actually madly in love with the bride’s maid of honor, Laura (Katie Holmes). The rehearsal dinner is the only segment that offers a few laughs, and only because a drunk uncle talks about the importance of having a wife to whom you’re…uh…attracted. (Euphemism intended.) After that, the movie is basically about the night before the wedding when the characters are meant to experience their greatest conflicts. Married couples swap partners, people get drunk, and the bride, Lila (Anna Paquin), puts on a terrible green face mask, which she wears while she and the groom have a rather bland heart-to-heart.
There were numerous idiosyncrasies throughout “The Romantics” that were probably meant to give a surreal and therefore more emotional feel to the whole thing. For instance, despite the obviously up-scale nature of the wedding and numerous references to the bride’s family fortune, there is not a servant or caterer in sight. Perfectly set tables and wedding decorations appear on the property overnight, as though set by sweet little Dobbies. The bride’s younger sister is named Minnow. Seriously. Is this common in the northeast? And characters lounge about with drunken commentary on everything because inebriation is apparently the same thing as wisdom.
No one – not even Laura or Tom – have no real motivation, and the things they actually do and say often seem like wildly inappropriate reactions. Friends Jake and Tripler (it’s like Sarah Palin named all these kids) randomly have an affair with one another, even though they seem perfectly happy in their long-term relationships. Although Lila’s brother Chip has the chance to fulfill a worthy trope – that of the cynical, though broodingly honest and therefore integral challenge to the characters’ apathy – he just sort of falls away and only reappears to offer unnecessary apologies to Laura for arbitrary sins. The big confrontation comes on the wedding day – when Lila finally learns that Tom cheated on her with Laura. The two women shout and cry and accuse each other of stealing the other’s life happiness and then…nothing. After Lila storms off to, well, walk down the aisle, Laura puts a smile on her face and goes to watch her ex-best friend marry the love of her life in seemingly perfect harmony. Everything is just dandy, despite the fact that both have supposedly had their hearts broken.
There is little doubt that whoever wrote this script was trying to channel the dialogue of “Gilmore Girls.” But whereas Rory and Lorelei had the sort of rapid-fire, witty banter that made normal girls sound like Igor, “The Romantics” is both disconnected and pretentious. Characters engage in entire monologues that are supposedly meant to convince us that they are worldly, conflicted, and poetic. Tom vomits out line after line about being inspired and Laura dutifully looks on with squinted, love-filled eyes. Later – and this is not a joke – Tom pulls Laura into his arms and seduces her by reciting a poem…after he Googled the words. Honestly, he’s so proud of his ineptitude that he walks out of the house holding up his phone as if to say, “See? Poem! Right here! I can read!” If only he stuck his tongue out at her, it would have been the perfect scene.
The movie basically ends when it starts to rain during the outdoor wedding ceremony. Nothing is resolved, and while that can be a fantastic, gripping way to end a movie, it’s really something that should be reserved for films that have actually told a story in the allotted two hours.