“We can get them to do anything.”
What a radically brave notion it’s become for a romantic comedy to feature two insanely likable leads that those of us in the audience desperately hope will finally fall in love by the time the credits roll. In Set It Up, we want two people to feel the affection and the connection that we’re able to ostensibly see play out on-screen, and when you hear people saying that they don’t make movies like this one anymore, it’s because that really is the truth. Set It Up modernizes the Rom-Com genre (and explains its machinations through its big Cyrano subplot) without cheapening what it’s really all about: finding love – and occasionally manufacturing it – in unexpected places and situations.
Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) meet in their shared work building lobby late one night. Harper’s the personal assistant to Kirsten (Lucy Liu), a workaholic editor for a top sports journalism website. Charlie does the bidding of Rick (Taye Diggs), a big name in finance who’s going through a separation. And during these two overworked and underpaid dreamer’s fateful encounter a compromise is made. Harper has no cash for the delivery food. Charlie has plenty. They both fear being fired if they literally don’t deliver the goods. So they split down the middle and makes things work. As their personal relationships begin to suffer, they can’t help but wonder if pairing their two high-strung and demanding bosses in a relationship would result in getting some much-needed R&R. Playing cupid rarely ever looks this cute.
Set It Up doesn’t really affect us when it focuses on the romance between Rick and Kirsten. She’s sad, he’s mad, they screw and aren’t compatible whatsoever. We hardly know who they are and that reduces them to plot points instead of people. However, to counter their egotistical love affair, we get to see something blossom between Charlie and Harper. I could not have cared less about the tryst between the two horrible bosses, and likewise, I could not have cared more about the perfect pairing between two aspiring assistants. Deutch and Powell – two of the most exuberant and charismatic young performers working in the movies today – have the kind of chemistry that you just can’t phone in. It’s not hard to spot a fake laugh or a smile; every reaction here is real. They are the pieces that elevate this kind of typical Hallmark schlock to something more cinematic, and in the end, even more endlessly endearing than you might presume.
Written by a woman (Katie SIlberman) and directed by another (Claire Scanlon), Set It Up benefits from having a discerning and sharp feminine perspective on a genre dominated by the false pretenses of male wish-fulfillment. Charlie has a softer edge than most leading men, Harper has a harder shell than most leading ladies, and together they form the kind of pair inspired by the likes of the friendship turned romantic relationship we saw back in When Harry Met Sally… during 1989. Much like its two charming stars, Set It Up simply squeezes the pessimism out of your heart and replaces the empty space with laughs and love and a renewed lease on the kind of life we all would like to subscribe to. Set It Up isn’t a film concerned about ending with a happily ever moment; we come to care for this hopeful couple, and we’re left wondering where they’ll go from here. How can you root against a love story this sweet and organic and genuine?
“You like because and you love despite…you like someone because of all of their qualities, and you love someone despite some of their qualities.”
Rating: 4 out of 5