I made a bold claim on Tuesday that I liked every romantic-comedy starring John Cusack. Well, I said that before I remembered just how many shitty romantic-comedies he’s been in. I mean he’s not up to Tom Hanks numbers yet but there are some bad ones. I mean I can kind of give Serendipity a pass because of the book thing but America’s Sweethearts? Urgh. High Fidelity and Say Anything really do a lot for his reputation as a romantic hero I guess. Or maybe I just do a lot for it? I do love him. And I have done since that first time I saw him holding that boom box outside Ione Skye’s window. I’d recently seen a John Cusack romantic-comedy that I’d never seen appear on Netflix, so I decided it could really answer the question once and for all. Is John Cusack the romantic hero of my dreams or my nightmares?
I tend to forget that the 00s were over nearly 20 years ago. It certainly hit me when I watched this film. The characters can be heard proclaiming how wonderful an invention the internet is. How it has revolutionised the dating world. I mean. Jesus Christ. Imagine what these characters would have made of Tinder. Although, considering the amount of action that Diane Lane’s dad gets in this film I’m glad I didn’t see octogenarians swiping right. That would be too much.
Because Must Like Dogs is a film all about the dating world. Sarah Nolan (Lane) is a recently divorced teacher who is having trouble getting back into the dating world. Her family, including It’s Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton, are trying to push her to meet someone however they can. Without her knowledge, Sarah’s sisters make her a profile on a dating website. She meets a whole host of unsuitable men until she comes face-to-face with Jake Anderson (John Cusack). Jake is another divorcee who has struggled to move on from his marriage. He and Sarah get off to a few rocky starts but can they find happiness with each other?
This film lucked out getting Diane Lane and John Cusack to star in it. The pair are so freaking cute together that you can easily overlook how awful this film is. And it is awful. Even by romantic-comedy standards. Not only does it not offer anything new but it doesn’t even do the cliched stuff properly. It’s obvious that the pair will end up together but, because this is a film, we know that it won’t be easy. But, there’s never any real reason for them to be kept apart. There isn’t that normal drama or tension that we expect. It all just kind of happens. It’s like everyone just gave up. As if nobody could be bothered pretending that this was going to end any other way. It’s just sad.
There are so many subplots that don’t go anywhere. Sarah’s brief dalliance with one of her student’s dad is just a joke. It lasts for all of 5 minutes and has basically no impact on the story. Then there’s her dad juggling his new girlfriend and his many other dating opportunities. And there’s her brother who is having some difficulties with his girlfriend but it’s never really clear what or why. It’s just something that happens when there’s space to fill. It’s just stupid and boring. This film is a joke.
But, for whatever reason, it managed to scrabble together an amazing cast of actors. None of them get anything juicy to work with but they’re all fantastic. There are no risks or original ideas here. This film attempts to work by being a cliche but it doesn’t even do that well. This is the bare bones of a rom-com rather than a real film. It’s not only proved that John Cusack isn’t the romantic hero that I have always thought he was but it made me super angry. I shouldn’t have had to watch that and those actors shouldn’t have had to make it. Whether it was the 90s or not.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."