There’s no meet cute in “Meet Cute”, and that’s kind of the point. Taking its name from the romantic comedy trope in which two people meet in an unusual way rarely seen in real life, the film owes as much, if not more, to “Groundhog Day”. as it is with “When Harry Met Sally…” Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson are the potential couple in Alex Lehmann’s time-loop rom-com, which might as well have been called “500 First Dates” for its portrayal of a lovesick. woman on a monomaniac quest to get things just right. The film itself is more freewheeling than its heroine, deriving much of its charm from a performance well-rehearsed on several levels.
What appears to be Sheila (Cuoco) and Gary (Davidson)’s first night together unfolds over nearly 30 minutes of screen time and is in the “Before Sunrise” style of walk-and-talk romance, with the two opening up for each other as people seem to only be able to do when they have just met someone new and attractive. They go from bar to restaurant to ice cream truck, all the while both alluding to each other and trivializing each other, but there are signs that something is, if not wrong, then certainly strange: Sheila will finish Gary’s sentence before he can or anticipates something just happening. before it happens. This would have been a lot more effective if Sheila hadn’t jokingly but earnestly revealed that she’s a time traveler within minutes of meeting him, sadly — as an over-divisor on a first date, “Meet Cute” can’t help but to to give away too soon.
There’s a twist, though: Sheila isn’t forced to relive this night by forces beyond her control, nor does she voluntarily return to correct a past mistake and make sure she’s on the mend. get the right way. She does it because she believes the only place to go from a perfect night is down to the messiness of a wart-and-all relationship, and she’d rather stay suspended from a permanent honeymoon. She tells Gary this more or less at the end of each night, assuming it won’t hurt because he won’t remember her words the next time they meet. She has a bit of humorous hopelessness, as does the fact that her time machine is actually a tanning bed in the back room of her favorite nail salon.
The amount of headlines generated by Davidson’s romantic entanglements is certainly smaller than his films, which is a shame. He essentially plays himself in ‘Big Time Adolescence’, ‘The King of Staten Island’ and even ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’, yes, but at least he does a good job. That’s the case here too, although the “Saturday Night Live” alumnus is less impressive than in the past, if only because he still isn’t doing anything we haven’t seen of him before. (He even starred in an “SNL” sketch called “Meet Cute” with Kristen Stewart five years ago.) The real star is Cuoco, who finds a fertile middle ground between charming and biting that will be familiar to anyone with a hilarious boyfriend whose sense of humor comes across as a defense mechanism. Her pain comes to the fore with each scene, culminating in the revelation of what she was really up to when she discovered her time machine.
Though masked by humor, at least since “Groundhog Day” this premise has been inherently sad. Bill Murray’s character wouldn’t have spent that much time trying to escape his 24-hour prison by making a fool of himself otherwise. “Meet Cute” leans more on that sadness than its predecessors, and is better for it. Whether you find Claire’s actions romantic, obsessive, or both, there’s no denying that it doesn’t come from the healthiest of places. This gives the film more depth than the average rom-com, but it also creates a tonal friction that is never fully resolved.
Just as their first date magic feels forced, not the result of natural chemistry, but the fact that Sheila has rehearsed it countless times, so does the movie. Do we really need to make sure this romance works, given both the deceit and the obsession behind it? Cuouco keeps us wondering, but the answers aren’t quite satisfying. In fact, it can be hard not to wonder if “Meet Cute” only exists because Peacock wanted to replicate Hulu’s “Palm Springs” success, forgetting, ironically, one of the genre’s most important messages: that your perfect moments cannot be forced and they must happen on their own.