Peter Sullivan’s tepid Amazon rom-com Love Accidentally has neither spark nor wit nor chemistry. The lack of genius and inspiration isn’t fun to watch, even for fans of frothy rom-coms such as myself. But the movie does cast a certain cold light on the genre and its tropes. There is virtually nothing here but the sad, stark, meat-denuded bones of the fantasy on offer. If you want to see exactly what that fantasy is, this is not a bad place to look.
Meet Cute, Anonymous
You know the general details of the plot already, but as for specifics, Alexa (Brenda Song) is a Type A high-achiever due for a promotion at her advertising agency sales job. But rather than giving her the new position outright, her boss Debra (Denise Richards) stages a competition with cocky new guy jerk Jason (Aaron O’Connell). Whoever woos wine-maker Craig (Maxwell Caulfield) into signing with them gets the sales head position.
Shortly after getting the challenge, Alexa’s boyfriend Perry (Gib Gerard) unexpectedly breaks up with her, and she accidentally destroys her phone. Heartbroken, with new phone in hand, she tries to text her best friend Hannah (Brooke Newton), but instead gets a mysterious stranger—who we know, but she doesn’t, is that jerk, Jason. Jason’s girlfriend has also broken up with him, and (as you’d expect) the chance encounter leads these two rivals to gradually fall in love.
Generic Him and Her
The problem with the film is that while they grow to appreciate one another, we don’t. Alexa and Jason have virtually no distinguishing features or interests. They’re bland corporate drones who bond over John Lennon lyrics. When they decide not to tell each other their real names to keep the sense of mystery, they can’t think of anything to call each other any more original than “him” and “her.”
Jason is worried about his mother, who we never see, and is a poor bowler. Alexa has a big mortgage and needs to mildly loosen up. That’s the limit of their character development. Neither has any discernible sense of humor, nor does the movie of which they’re a part.
Corporate culture is never mocked; ex-boyfriends and clients alike are all middle-of-the-road nice sans quirk. The tech guy is a little too excited about the new smartphone cases. That’s the limit of zaniness anyone is allowed.
The general bath of beige niceness is, I think, supposed to be a feature rather than a bug. Alexa dreams of love, like Emma in Pride and Prejudice. She also dreams of financial stability (like Emma again), and of career recognition, as in rom coms from His Girl Friday to The Proposal. But even more than that, she dreams of not having to do anything to get any of her dreams.
The Dream of No Problems
The payoff in Love Accidentally isn’t that Alexa overcomes the barriers to getting everything she wants. It’s that she realizes that there weren’t actually any barriers to begin with. She starts out worried that patriarchy and capitalism are out to get her. Her boss throws her into competition with a guy with much less experience. She seems to find his swaggering sense of entitlement amusing or charming.
But then, accidentally, without really having to do anything or make any choices, everything turns out to be fine. Jason is not a jerk, but Alex’s secret best friend who helps her rather than competing with her. Not only does everything turn out well, but everything was always retroactively well to begin with.
You could argue (and many critics have) that romances like this end up as easy apologies for male jerks and awful bosses. There’s no criticism of patriarchy or capitalism here. Alexa never says, “this white male jerk is being treated better than me because he’s white and male, and that’s unfair.” Her mild anxieties just evaporate in a puff of good feeling. There are no problems. Love and success are so omnipresent you can stumble into them by accident.
At the same time, though, as with much popular entertainment, you can see the appeal. Who wouldn’t like to be able to solve all their problems by getting super strength and punching the bullies? Who wouldn’t like to discover that love makes all their troubles vanish as if they never were?
Patriarchy and capitalism are omnipresent and inescapable. If you’re miserable at your job or in your personal life, your options are often limited. There are better, smarter rom coms to give you that genre rush, and you should watch those instead if you can. But even Alexa and Jason at least offer a vision of what utopia might look like, even if you can only get there by film magic or accident.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
Noah Berlatsky is a freelance writer based in Chicago. His book, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics was published by Rutgers University Press. He thinks the Adam West Batman is the best Batman, darn it.