My best friend and I are romantic comedy aficionados, so when Emily suggested I watch a new Netflix movie because it’s a classic RomCom, I had to check it out. Set It Up is not breaking any new ground in storytelling, but it is silly and fun and would make a great pairing with some other films in its genre.
In Set It Up, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are each executive assistant to a successful, but overwhelmingly demanding boss. Harper works for Kirsten (Lucy Liu), a sportswriter who she hopes will help her launch her own writing career eventually. Charlie works for Rick (Taye Diggs), whose job I didn’t actually catch, but he makes a lot of money while being kind of a terrible person. Harper and Charlie take advantage of working in the same building to set their bosses up, hoping that if they fall in love, it will make their own lives easier. Harper and Charlie might just find love along the way, too.
Set It Up directly references Cyrano de Bergerac, but it also feels indebted to many romantic comedies. The story is pretty cliched, but it moves along at a fair pace and has enough twists that I even had some brief doubts about how things were going to turn out.
The movie really banks on the chemistry between the two leads. Most romantic comedy plots are just variations on a theme, so that central couple is essential. Although Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs have good chemistry and look beautiful together, their characters are basically the same person they usually play. The real couple to watch is Harper and Charlie. Zoey Deutch and Glenn Powell work great together. As friends and co-conspirators, they are funny and quippy, so when it seems like romance might come into play, it is a natural and welcome progression. Normally, I would roll my eyes at the predictability, but the combination of the snappy dialogue and the performances got me on board. Deutch is like a combination of Isla Fisher and Ellen Paige and Glenn Powell looks like a parody of a leading man. They are both great in this film.
Overall, if I’d seen Set It Up in the theater, I would have thought it was pretty mediocre. For watching at home, however, it is sufficiently charming and plays with enough genre tropes that it made for a fun evening.
Set It Up was directed by Claire Scanlon and written by Katie Silberman. It runs 1 hour 45 minutes. It streams on Netflix.
If you want to make a mini film festival, here are my suggestions for films to include with Set It Up: Two Weeks Notice or The Devil Wears Prada both focus on horrible bosses. In Two Weeks Notice, Sandra Bullock’s character is trying to quit working for Hugh Grant, but he is so charming and dependent on her that it is tricky. The movie is not great aside from the chemistry between the leads. The Devil Wears Prada is one of my favorites. It barely counts as a romantic comedy, as the romantic relationship is an afterthought to Anne Hathaway’s character’s relationship with her boss, a powerful fashion editor. Come for Meryl Streep; stay for Stanley Tucci.
Follow your choice above with The Proposal, which also stars Sandra Bullock, but this time she is the terrible boss. This movie makes a great pairing for Set It Up, as Ryan Reynolds plays an assistant forced into pretending to marry his boss. It is uproariously funny.
The last film in the lineup should be Roxanne or The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Like Set It Up, each of these movies is based on Cyrano de Bergerac. Roxanne is a classic starring Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah and makes for a sweeter love story. It stays truer to the original story, giant nose and all. The Truth About Cats and Dogs is a more ironic twist, featuring great work by Janeane Garofalo and some passable commentary on romantic norms.
Don’t forget plenty of snacks.
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