Time travel twist can’t save this mediocre “not” love story
Time travel and the temptation to perfect a flawed romance is a promising combination. Man’s intrusion into every cosmic thing happening due to divine grace is not taken lightly. Expecting a different outcome when you keep doing the same things repeatedly can drive you mad. And for Sheila (Kaley Cuoco), it actually happens.
Tinkering with time has its own quantum mechanic repercussions but Meet Cute focuses on something else; its protagonist’s fading sanity to find perfect love. But, if you are going in to watch Meet Cute expecting it to turn out something like About Time, you probably would prefer to go back in time and unsee it. Unfortunately, this Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson starrer does not come even close.
Sheila sits across Gary (Pete Davidson) in a bar, eagerly staring at him. At the behest of bartender Phil, she approaches and offers him a drink. The conversation has very slight undercurrents of familiarity, which are offset by the awkward but sweet exchanges. The two then go out for food and then dessert. But it is quite apparent Sheila knows “something more” than Gary about them.
Eventually, the night ends with Sheila admitting she is a time traveller and proving it to Gary by quoting intimate details of his life. Gary is freaked out, only to find himself unwittingly sitting across Sheila a hundred more times and the cycle continues.
The themes are familiar and once the catch has been established, it is all down to the charm of the actors and the writing to back them up. Briefly, through the first few exchanges, both these markers are met. We are deceived into thinking that this setup might just have that special something to woo us.
After a while, though, the story progression stagnates and finds itself stuck, like its protagonist Sheila. Director Alex Lehmann does try to veer his narration towards the tradition of Meet Cute’s great thematic lineage. There is even a sequence where we are taken back to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; going back into someone’s past and figuring out what’s wrong with them.
But it is done so without the nuance and emotional depth of Charlie Kaufman’s human insights. Like many other parts, this too is just rolled over to fit the runtime. Not that trimming the same doesn’t give the film a more chic looking but doing it at the expense of what you’re offering the viewer is probably not a wise creative choice.
The core problem with Meet Cute is its inability to give us relatable characters, even when the film is all about warming them up to us. The writers missed a trick by purposely writing their protagonists as troubled people, without the discovery process where we can see things take shape. With Gary and Sheila, we are given readymade flaws that play out through words and not visuals.
They’re even more of strangers to the viewer by the film’s climax, which in itself is hugely problematic. It probably didn’t feel like a bad idea on paper. But when we see it on the screen, the final result is dissatisfactory. Maybe Lehmann’s vision and the fact that the network wanted the runtime to fit a certain slot collectively botched the plan. Cuoco and Davidson do not seem to have the backing of the script. Their performances are sub-par, as a result. Not that they turned in a bad performance but they hardly have anything to build upon and make their characters their own. Davidson comes closer to leaving his typical stamp on Gary but the writing precludes him from making an impact.
Cuoco’s rendition of Sheila seemed a bit problematic to me. You could see strong glimpses of Cassie in her without the comic undertones. But the character seemed really derivative in that sense. It worked on borrowed conviction and maybe you cannot blame Cuoco for it. She took all she can from her experience of living Sheila’s character in real life and through other roles she has played. Despite that, their presence is the only thing that makes Meet Cute watchable.
Talking about the third act, the sudden change in Gary’s arch to becoming a “savior” for the miserable Sheila just didn’t make sense. While the movie started in the exact opposite manner – Sheila trying to “save” Gary from his loneliness and pain – it ends with a woeful role reversal.
The bridge scene, in the end, was perhaps the most crucial junction for Meet Cute. It had a critical significance which could turn the dye on either side. What we do end up seeing destroys any chance of redemption for the story. Even Gary’s sojourn into the past which was meant to be a tectonic event in the film, turned out to be really drab. It really highlights everything that went wrong with the project.
Meet Cute has a skip recommendation from our side. It never really blossoms into a full-blown narrative about two people struggling to find love – as it should have – remaining restricted to coming across as the diary of wimpy kids done distastefully and with little originality.
Read More: Meet Cute Ending Explained
Verdict - 5/10