Amazon’s recent specialty seems to be wasting meet-cutes. In Book of Love, English author Henry Copper (Sam Claflin) is sent to Mexico on a promotional tour of his book, where the dull novel has unexpectedly large sales. Henry is met in Mexico by the translator of his book, Maria Rodriguez (Verónica Echegui), who drives him to the various book events with her grandfather, Max (Fernando Becerril), and son, Diego (Ruy Gaytan). In the midst of the tour, Henry discovers that his book has done so well in Mexico because Maria did not just translate his work, she rewrote it into a much racier story. And, well, sparks fly.
Streaming on Amazon Prime, Book of Love has a great setup for a romantic comedy; the movie just fails to deliver any real joy or chemistry and this failure is, frankly, shocking, considering how charming Sam Clafin was in Me Before You, for example. Henry, however, is stiff and awkward and Clafin does not lean into the comic possibilities therein, making the character fall flat. Verónica Echegui is lovely as Maria, but her character relies pretty heavily on tropes of the weary, overworked Latina and the romantic comedy heroine who has had her heart broken, in this case by ex-common-law-husband Antonio (Horacio Garcia Rojas).
Book of Love does provide elements of a road trip comedy, as Henry and Maria travel around Mexico in her old Volkswagen Beetle, offering plenty of beautiful scenery along the way, but otherwise, the movie is a good premise squandered on just so-so writing and performances. It is perhaps worth watching for the fun of the first act, but do not expect much out of the rest.
Book of Love was written by David Qantick and Analeine Cal y Mayor, who directed. It runs for 1 hour 46 minutes.
I would like to make a case that a new Hulu series should have been a movie instead. A big trend right now is prestige streaming miniseries based on true crime stories. For example, Inventing Anna, Joe vs Carol, and Hulu’s new series The Dropout, based on the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos. This miniseries could have easily been a two-hour movie and would have been better for it. I am perversely fascinated with the Elizabeth Holmes case, but even with just the three episodes released as of this writing, it is too much content after the HBO docuseries, the podcast, and the media coverage of her trial. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to see Amanda Seyfried bring Holmes to life.
I do not know if The Dropout is supposed to make Holmes sympathetic by focusing on her quest for greatness while everyone around her tells her to just focus on being 19-years-old. Maybe the show is trying to tap into the angst of us older millennials who once had so much promise, but Holmes just looks like the obnoxious, arrogant wannabe she is, trying to skip all the hard work to get to success. If the series is trying to make her an anti-hero, that is yet to be seen, but there is just too much origin story to serve either purpose.
In the first episodes, the series dwells a lot on how sloppy and inexperienced Holmes is, leading her to create the caricature of a CEO that she eventually performs, lowering her voice, and adopting the Steve Jobs uniform. The audience also gets to see the establishment of her complicated relationship with Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews), which will add volatility to the story as it gets into Holmes’s allegations of abuse. I hope the show handles that thread with more nuance than it does the gender issues in Silicon Valley.
Although Seyfried’s performance is solid, the writing is so sprawling, I cannot imagine how it will keep narrative momentum over five more episodes when it has not achieved much yet. I will probably keep watching, but a movie would have served this story better.
The Dropout was created by Elizabeth Meriweather. It runs for 8 episodes and is rated TV-MA.
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