Yesterday at work, I nearly got into a huge argument with a guy I work with. It wasn’t about a professional matter but about his attitude towards dating. Specifically his attitude towards finding love on Tinder. He was being extremely pig-headed and negative about the women he was talking to because, unfortunately, he’s not had much success. The fact that he’s only 20 years old and it doesn’t really matter has escaped him. He is just frustrated that he’s, in his own mind at least, “failing” at dating and that the girls he talks to, apparently, say one thing. Basically, he was skating the fine line between someone dealing with a lot of rejection and the guy who shot 6 people in Santa Barbara because he was still a virgin at 22. Any advice I offered was ignored and I ended up getting more and more angry. I mention this only because I think I was feeling extra sensitive about the subject thanks to this fucking film. As soon as I saw the trailer appear on Netflix I knew I wanted to review this film. However, it was the very reason I wanted to do so that prevented me from watching it for so long: namely that I hated the very concept of the film. It made me so angry that I both wanted to be able to destroy it in a post but didn’t want to have to endure it. Well, this weekend I finally watched it. And, as you can tell from the above anecdote, it left me feeling super perky.
I get why Netflix made and wanted to push a film like When We First Met. I mean it’s a romantic-comedy that stars adorable puppy Adam DeVine. DeVine is one of those actors that manages to be incredibly inoffensive in everything. He appeals to so many people that this simple tale of a man looking for love should have been an easy sell. However, it is based on one huge flaw. It’s so fucking offensive. The basic premise is that Noah Ashby (DeVine) has been in love with Avery (Alexandra Daddario) since they first met 3 years ago. Sadly for Noah, the next day Avery met and fell in love with Ethan (Robbie Amell). Instead of being a grown-up and accepting that Avery has made her choice, Noah dwells on his feelings and refuses to accept that it’s over. So when he finds a way to go back in time, he takes the chance to change history and get Avery to fall for him instead.
This film is horrible. It’s a film based on the mystical idea of the “friend-zone”: a state that only exists in the minds of men unable to accept that a woman is able to make her own decisions about who she has feelings for. Noah is the kind of desperate loser on the internet who always moans that their best female friends don’t share their adoration. If they are so in love with her, how can she, in good conscience, not feel the same way? What a fucking bitch! Although, not really. Because there is no law of human nature that dictates you fall in love with someone just because they loved you first. The idea of the friend-zone takes away a person’s decision to decide who they want to be with. They lose their humanity and their rights. Instead they just become an object to be possessed by the first person to see them.
And this film plays on that idea by giving Noah the chance to try again. To manipulate this situation to prove to the unwitting Avery that he is her perfect man… even if he’s the only one who thinks so. When We First Met seems like a massive misstep generally but it has to be even more so this year. Being released in the same year that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have helped empower so many women, it just feels like a huge step back in time. As if, really, Hollywood have learnt nothing and women are still vapid, unimportant storytelling devices. Of course, When We First Met attempts to give Noah a huge epiphany moment as he realises that Avery has a different soul mate. The problem is, the film’s final ending isn’t exactly trouble-free. As much as I was hoping this turning point would finally lead to something good, it just changed the object of his obsession. It’s almost a more unsatisfactory ending than I’d imagined it would be.
Still, I won’t pretend that I wouldn’t have been able to forgive some of When We First Met‘s sins had it been a decent film. The thing is, it really isn’t. Whoever wrote this film really needs a lesson in comedy because when one of your jokes is just saying the phrase “doggy style” then you don’t know funny. There is very little in this film that actually works. I guess I could say that the cast is all kind of endearing. As much as I hated DeVine’s character it was impossible not to kind of root for him… such is the power of DeVine’s charm. The cast all do credible jobs considering how terrible the whole film is. They should be applauded for giving it a go.
Aside from that, it’s all a mess. The narrative is so obvious from the start that it’s just depressing. Something that is not helped from the fact that so few of the jokes work. Actually, so few of the jokes are actually jokes. This film isn’t funny nor is it particularly dramatic. It lacks heart at its centre and is hardly what you’d cal emotional or moving. It doesn’t really manage to tick any of the boxes. It’s also super boring. The time travel narrative has been overplayed. Groundhog Day did the Groundhog Day thing so well that you might as well have given up trying to copy it there any then. When We First Met really doesn’t add anything. The scenarios that Noah creates each time are just boring. There is nothing fresh, exciting or, even really entertaining to see. If it hadn’t been for the basic premise, I’d have forgotten it instantly. This is just basic film making that wants to crank them out quickly. I highly doubt that in 3 years time I’ll be fondly reminiscing about the first time I met When We First Met.