Meet Cute wants to be many things at once. The film, which premieres exclusively on the Peacock this week, is at once a manic time travel adventure, playful romantic comedy and serious commentary on the messiness of romantic relationships. If that sounds like a lot for a low-budget rom-com to juggle—and within the span of 89 minutes, no less—that’s because it is. Thanks to the performance given by the main star of the game, however, there are moments when Meet Cute is close to realizing its unique tonal gambit.
Unfortunately, the film’s attempts to blend comedy with overt romanticism often come off as stilted rather than inspired. Behind the camera, director Alex Lehmann fails to deliver Meet CuteThe various emotional and comedic elements come together, and the film ultimately lacks the tonal control it needs to be able to discuss serious topics like depression in the same sequence that throws out, say, a series of uncomfortable costumes. The resulting film is one that isn’t so much memorably absurd as it is mildly irritating.
Meet CuteIts inability to add anything of real value to the romantic comedy genre becomes more disappointing than its promising start. The film brings a refreshing, Groundhog Day– great twist on its simple rom-com plot, and despite opening with an intentionally clichéd encounter between the film’s two leads, Sheila (Stewardess‘s Kaley Cuoco) and Gary (Pete Davidson, last seen in the thriller Gen Z Bodies, bodies, bodies), Meet Cute wisely does not waste much time before throwing the necessary wrench into its own story.
In this case, the key that complicates Meet CuteThe plot is a tanning bed that allows its user to travel to any point in the past for just 24 hours. The car is kept in the back room of a nail salon owned by the no-nonsense Jun (Deborah S. Craig), who happens to enter Cuoco’s Sheila’s orbit one fateful day. A brief flashback reveals how June introduced Sheila to her time machine, and it quickly becomes clear from that point on the first date that it opened. Meet Cute it wasn’t exactly what it seemed. At least not for Sheila, who quickly and cheerfully tells Gary from the start Meet Cute that she has begun using June’s time machine to repeatedly relive their magical first date.
Her confession to Gary is one of many moments in which Meet Cute uses Sheila’s tendency to overwork and throw caution to the wind to rush the necessary bits of exposition, but Cuoco, to her credit, takes full advantage of her character’s high energy by chewing every line she gives give In fact, while it doesn’t take long for Sheila’s manic energy to wear thin, Cuoco’s brilliant performance gradually proves to be the only likable thing about Meet Cute went for it.
Opposite Cuoco, Davidson feels miscast as Gary, the shy and unassuming graphic designer who quickly finds himself swept up in the whirlwind of Sheila’s romance. As the other half of the film’s central couple, Davidson manages to match Cuoco’s infectiously absurd energy throughout Meet CuteIt’s more outsider comedy moments, but he has a harder time selling some of Gary’s emotional outbursts. The film itself also underplays one of Gary’s biggest moments, foreshadowing it heavily during its first act.
It’s a shame, given that the scene in question had the potential to be one of the few real surprises in a film that takes a more predictable journey than its time-travel premise would have you believe. Not long ago, for example Meet Cute it forces Sheila to tell Gary how her fear of disappointment has kept her from truly exploring a relationship with him, and the arguments that follow that admission feel stiflingly overwritten.
The film’s breakneck pace also prevents it from probing Sheila’s stories as deeply as it should, which makes many of the real issues she’s struggling with feel more like thinly sketched feelings than real emotional issues. The same can be said for many of them Meet Cutewhich often introduces some compelling ideas and genre subversions only to end up abandoning them in favor of safer and more predictable storytelling.
The film ultimately evolves in much the same way as the date at its center, which is to say that it starts out promising enough only to quickly become frustratingly repetitive and boring. Nor is Cuoco’s charmingly fearless performance as his fragile lead strong enough to add a sense of cohesion to Meet Cute‘s numerous half-hearted diversions. The movie is, in other words, an appointment you don’t have to worry about missing.
Meet Cute premieres Friday, September 23 exclusively on the Peacock.