Save the Date
As such things are prone to happen, I just came through a string of reviews for what passes as horror movies of late. After a few weeks of viewing dismemberments, disembowelments and assorted general mayhem I really needed a break in the routine. Fortunately as I viewed my schedule I noticed a potentially refreshing distraction was coming due, a romantic comedy. Over the years I have come to appreciate the finer points of the rom-com genre and have several elevated to guilty pleasures. The particular example under consideration here is an innocuous enough movie, ‘Save the Date’. Actually it might rank a bit above the median point on the romantic comedy statistical bell curve. One factor that instilled me with a modicum of hope and anticipation is a certain couple of names listed in the principle cast, Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie. I have been fans of both of these talented young women for a while, impressed by the versatility of their abilities. Brie is currently in the cult hit comedy television series,’ Community’ while Caplan has run the gamut of roles from psycho addict on ‘True Blood’ to an aspiring standup6 comedians/party server in ‘Party Down’. As the romantic comedy is arguably one of the more formulaic types of movies an inordinate burden is placed on the cast and their ability to sell the typically outlandish plots. In the case here the principle players are up to the challenge. The underlying themes explored in this light hearted romp are familiar to anyone who has seen any number of these films but at lease the treatment here did feel fresher than usual with despite suffering from some of the foibles commonly associated with the genre.
Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) is the kind of young woman that only can exist within the specific context of the rom-com. At work she manages a bookstore; you know that establishment where people used to purchase bound volumes of paper before the advent of Amazon and the e-reader. At home Sarah fills her sketchbooks with drawings including many depicting exceptionally intimate details most featuring her boyfriend. Kevin (Geoffrey), a young man who also pursues a vocation far more common in these flicks than reality, the lead singer of a band, in this instance one named ‘Wolfbird’. Sarah is on the cusp of mobbing in with Kevin which is news that is well received by her roommate and sister, Beth (Alison Brie). The sibling is glad to help in the move and has a fiancé, Andrew (Martin Starr), the drummer in the same band as Kevin. As the pack up the finality of the step hits Sarah as she abandons her couch on the sidewalk. Beth was always the more driven sister, goal oriented and determined juxtaposed to Sarah’s laid back personality. Sarah is overcome by a wave of trepidation about cohabitating with Kevin and begins to look for some excuse to get out of the commitment. Usually in these films it’s the guy with the commitment issues but it’s about time for a little role reversal. The opportunity appears to present itself when Kevin decides to propose to her in a very public and embarrassing venue. Sarah quickly responds to this gaff but dumping Kevin and turning around a rebound in record time by becoming involved with Jonathan (Mark Webber), a student of marine biology.
In all movies set up upon this scaffold the impetus of the story has to be derived from one of two potential sources; the circumstances or the personalities. The main issue in this offering is neither path is clearly taken. The director and co-screen writer Michael Mohan had several short films prior to this but ‘Save the Date’ represents his entry into a feature length filmmaker. His co-author, Jeffrey Brown is seeing his name in any credits for the first time here. Considering both men are newcomers it is reasonable that they adhere to the familiar territory of the rom-com precepts. Still, there is a spark here that if properly nurtured can be fanned into interesting career. Have a core cast who know there way around this type of film is of immeasurable help here. Mr. Mohan’s nascent directorial style is solid and manages to get more out of the staple conundrums than I thought possible. He manages to elicit respectable performances from both Brie and Caplan; it seems that he had the insight to trust stresses with much more experience in how best to portray their characters. In any case the intrinsic appeal of both actresses shine through helping to support the flow of the story.
Caplan has played a lot of different roles, assuming a myriad of personalities. Of all the works I have seen her in many of her best portrayals have been slightly neurotic or at least insecure women. Her treatment of Sarah is multifaceted blending elements of a woman who has insufficient trust in herself to reach out for her potential. Kevin is the proverbial nice guy, by Sarah’s self-deprecating vantage point, too nice. She agrees to move in with him not motivated by passion pushing her forward but her trepidation of commitment avoiding a confrontation. Comparison between sisters is all but mandatory under these circumstances an Brie, an alumnus of Aptow productions, is very capable of playing her character’s goal oriented persona off Caplan’s Sarah’s self-doubt and insecurities.
The script offers all on both sides of the camera an opportunity to infuse a touch of drama into the movie. So many romantic comedies strive too hard to maintain a positive outlook with only a second act emotional set back to break the mood. In this film there are truly realistic feeling dollops of dramatic moments that validate the characters as believable people as well as set a change of pace to maintain a realistic pacing. Perhaps this is a significant part of the ineffable feeling derived from the film that just beneath the surface there is something more than the usual date night fair. In any case the movie is entertaining and I have the distinct feeling that in a short while we will look back at this as the opening line in a worthy resume.
Writer/Director Michael Mohan