Rom-com does what it says on the chocolate box (★★★★ Written and directed by Tim Gormican)
The basic rom-com: two unlikely people meeting in an unlikely way and falling in unlikely love, is a much derided genre.
Maybe it’s the too-easy formula? Boy meets girl who is cooler than all the other girls; boy realises his entire life is a sham; girl completes boy; bingo.
Or maybe it’s that sometimes they expect you to accept that even George Clooney finds it hard to get a date sometimes?
Whatever the case, we don’t really give rom-coms much credence.
Kiwi rom-com master Richard Curtis, arguably the High Priest of cinematic High Romance having written Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and uber rom-com, Love Actually, will have none of that.
‘‘If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it’s called searingly realistic, even though it has literally never happened ever, ’’ he said.
‘‘If you write about two people falling in love, which happens about a million times a day all over the world, you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental.’’
It’s true. Sentimental, trite, lame, we don’t think of rom-coms as ‘‘real’’ films. They’re bubble-gum entertainment.
Worse than that, they’re the sickly-sweet strawberry heart in the cinematic box of Rose’s. You know, the one no one really likes but will eat anyway because, hey, it’s still a chocolate.
Known as ifThat Awkward Momentnf in the States, Are We Officially Dating?, is the latest bid for the hearts and wallets of love addled cinemaphiles everywhere.
It doesn’t do anything new. There’s no formula bucking or format tweaking, it just is what it is – a rom-com told from the guy’s point of view by impossibly attractive people.
And yet, as I sit in the cinema giggling, sighing and charmed to within an inch of my life, I can’t help thinking that the US title might refer to the moment you realise you don’t give a fig for artistic integrity and deep cinema.
You are a giant sap and AWOD? has completely won you over.
Set in New York, it tells the tale of Jason (Zac Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) three college chums trying to make it in the big city.
When Mikey discovers his wife has been having an affair, his unattached-and-loving-it pals rally round him, vowing to give up relationships forever in favour of endlessly refreshing their ‘‘rosters’’ – rotating lists of women they date and sleep with – with no commitment in sight.
It’s a solemn vow of brotherhood, never to be broken. Bros before .th.th. that horrible perjorative for women that Americans use with alarming frequency.
Which is, of course, the moment when both Daniel and Jason meet women, namely Ellie (Imogen Poots) and Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), who make keeping their vow almost impossible.
Written and directed by first timer Tim Gormican, Are We Officially Dating? isn’t going to get any Oscars this year.
It’s not setting any critics alight and while there’s a little crime in it, it’s not this year’s most searing crime drama.
But who cares? It does exactly what cinema was created to do, in the most honest way possible.
It opens an escape hatch from reality you can nip through for a couple of incredibly pleasant hours of believing in the transformative power of true love and Zac Efron’s nearly naked body.
From the gorgeous fantasy New York apartments – and seriously, AWOD? is unfairly burdened with awesome, wish-fulfilling interiors – to Efron’s impossibly cute baby blues, to Poots’ quirky adorableness, AWOD? is a perfect rom-com.
There are feelings, there are jokes, and there is hope. That’s key.
There’s hope that this could happen to you, maybe even with Zac Efron, maybe even in that sprawling, jauntily decorated Lower Manhattan loft.
Sure, Efron has a couple of years to go before he can claim full Cary Grant Charm status, but he’s well on the way.
In the mean time he has an 8 pack that will not quit and just enough vulnerability to make his swagger seem less like cocky arrogance and more like heart-winning confidence.
Poots, though is utterly perfect, combining just enough charm and chic to be the Everygirl ideal, and her significantly superior acting chops mean the hoops Jason jumps through to win Ellie make perfect sense.
Are We Officially Dating? really is adorable. It’s funny – the post Viagra hook-up scene is unforgettable – cute, warm, sexy without being gratuitous – in short it’s everything a first date should be.
And just like the perfect first date it left me wanting more.
So Tim Gormican, put me on your roster. I’m definitely available.