Despite the stacked supporting cast, this is really a two-hander for Powell, whose scruffy charm is reminiscent of Kurt Russell a la “Overboard,” and Sweeney, whose sad eyes and soft timbre recall Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl.” Their palpable chemistry is enhanced through a skillful use of medium and close-up shots that bring into focus both their characters’ fire, and their shared melancholy. While the film has its fair share of wacky moments, its greatest moments are found in the many scenes where Ben and Bea truly see each other, and, eventually, find the courage it takes to embrace being with someone who recognizes the real you, flaws and all.
Along with the strong character work from Powell and Sweeney, the film’s greatest asset is the creative visual ways Gluck finds to subvert viewer expectations for an R-rated comedy. There is nudity, sure, but mostly the camera gazes on Powell’s toned body. Gluck further subverts this gaze, using the actor’s hulking frame for farcical sight gags and light barbs. Gluck’s positioning of Sweeney’s petite frame in slightly absurd physical situations (a scene featuring a malfunctioning sink in an early scene is a standout) allows the actress to showcase her own slapstick prowess.
These comedic moments are perfectly contrasted with the film’s romantic moments, grand and small, which are also subversions of well-worn tropes. There are the bookend scenes of Ben cooking Bea grilled cheese (food is love, after all, and nothing says love to me more than a perfectly cooked sourdough grilled cheese). Bea helping Ben overcome a fearful moment by singing to him his “serenity song,” Natasha Bedingfield’s undeniably upbeat bop “Unwritten.” Or the film’s requisite final mad dash declaration of love. But rather than the final speech being a plea for the couple to be together, like the endings to classics of the genre that are swoon-worthy, yet also, unfortunately, essentially ultimatums, there is instead a more emotionally complex understanding that to love someone is to wish the best for them, regardless if that future includes you or not. Remember, the rest is still unwritten.
In theaters on December 22nd.