Thursday, February 13, 2014

Film Review: I Hate Valentine's Day

"I Hate Valentine's Day"
* 1\2 (out of ****)

With Valentine's Day upon us, I thought it would be a cute idea I review this Nia Vardalos comedy "I Hate Valentine's Day" (2009). I was wrong. You may hate Valentine's Day but I hate this movie more.

"I Hate Valentine's Day" was written and directed by Vardalos. It was her director debut. The movie is to put nicely, a perhaps well intended, disaster. It is a romantic comedy but does just about nothing right. How on earth this movie was written by the same women who wrote "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002) is beyond me. That movie did a few things right. This one however, is just completely tone deaf.

Recently I wrote a review for another Vardalos comedy "My Life in Ruins" (2009), which I also didn't like. I explained in that review Vardalos just seems to be trying to get by on her reputation for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and since that time has not done anything else which managed to connect with audiences. Everything she does just seems to try to recapture that movie's appeal.

Case in point. For Ms. Vardalos's directorial debut she has decided on casting John Corbett in the male lead. Mr. Corbett also co-starred with Vardalos in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". This casting decision naturally makes audiences think of that movie and allowed for advertisers to promote "starring the same people from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". People will recall that movie, think to themselves, oh I liked that movie and then decide to see this movie. Strangely enough the ploy didn't work. "I Hate Valentine's Day" was a box-office bomb. Another failure for Ms. Vardalos.

In the movie Vardalos stars as Genevieve, a woman who seems carefree and cheerful. She runs her own business, a flower shop. As you can imagine around Valentine's Day they get a lot of business. Despite the movie's title, Genevieve actually likes Valentine's Day. She loves romance. What she doesn't like is commitment. She doesn't believe in relationships. People, she argues, are not meant to be in exclusive relationships. They always end badly. So, as a result, she has created a five day rule. She will only date a man five times and then break up with him. This will spare her the hurt which can sometimes lead to relationships.

In its own way the movie is hitting on a current sentiment, which even I have noticed among women. Women don't want relationships. A particular generation (unfortunately mine) struggle with finding the right career path, trying to succeed in the chosen field, they are unsure of who they are, what they want. The have memories of an ex, which they can't let go of. They simply aren't looking for a relationship. Statics have shown marriage is on the decline. For the first time singles are the majority. Women are having fewer children, waiting longer to have their first child. This is the "modern, independent" woman. They don't need a man or a relationship or marriage.

Was this Nia Vardalos's intention? Was she out to make a comment on modern day dating? No, not really. At the end of the day, the movie wants to celebrate love and relationships. Again, despite its title.

Genevieve meets Greg (Corbett) who has bought a building near her flower shop and plans to open a Tapas restaurant. She finds him attractive. He finds her attractive. She explains her dating rules and since he has just been dumped by a cheating girlfriend, he agrees. Can these two people go through with this concept and not fall for each other?

Despite being predictable what makes me dislike "I Hate Valentine's Day" so much is how badly written it is. The characters aren't real people. They don't really have a personality. Nothing insightful to say. They are plot devices. There doesn't seem to be chemistry between the leads. The dialogue is flat. There isn't anything funny or romantic about the screenplay. It is just a disappointment in every way.

The supporting cast; Rachel Dratch, Mike Starr, Zoe Kazen, Stephen Guarino, Amir Arison, aren't given anything to work with. They are all wasted. There isn't really anything interesting about them. No sense of who they are as people. After you watch this movie, explain to me who Rachel Dratch is? What is her character's story? What did the creation of this character contribute to the over all story?

If you want to watch a sweet, funny, romantic comedy about two people who take a while to realize they are right for each other watch "When Harry Met Sally" (1989).

Happy Valentine's Day!