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NEW YORK — A self-aware laffer that indulges in rom-com contrivance up until the point it judo-flips them to its own ends, Kat Coiro‘s A Case of You suggests that a little cyber-stalking mightn’t be the worst thing in the world, provided the perpetrator suffers for his crush and comes clean in the end. Multiplex-friendly and benefitting from supporting performances by top-shelf comedic talent, it should have little difficulty connecting with moviegoers.
Hack writer Sam (Justin Long) has been cranking out movie novelizations while trying fruitlessly to start a more personal book. He harbors a deep love for the girl at his corner coffee shop, as we all do, but barely learns her name before she’s fired for excessive free-spiritedness. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, he knows this needn’t be the end of the story.
Studying the “likes” and hobbies listed on her profile, Sam delusionally sets out to become the perfect man for Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood). He reads Castaneda, proves his culinary ineptitude in French-cooking class, and stumbles through guitar lessons taught by a lost-in-the-’90s dude played divertingly well by Sam Rockwell.
When Sam finally arranges to “accidentally” bump into her at an improv show she’s attending, Birdie more than meets him halfway — offering the kind of conversational openings that should make it clear she’s interested in this nervous young man even if he’s never heard of her favorite bands.
Wood makes Birdie approachable enough that Sam’s continuing treatment of her as a fantasy-girl, who could only like a fictionalized version of him, grows tiresome as the film progresses. While his contortions — pretending to like bourbon, suffering through a rock-climbing outing — provide some laughs in the moment, each successive scene of angsty self-doubt with roommate Eliot (Keir O’Donnell) is more distracting than the last, a diversion from the pleasure of seeing the two connect. By the time Sam’s neurosis erupts during a surprise picnic Birdie has lovingly engineered, most viewers will want to throttle the guy.
Rather surprisingly, the movie feels the same way. Audience members rolling their eyes at a hackneyed romantic crisis may be won back when, mere minutes later, the script (penned by Long, his brother Christian, and O’Donnell) finds a way to put their thoughts into the mouth of Vince Vaughn‘s Alan. Granted, Alan is a publisher whose greedy embrace of Sam’s hackwork makes him an unlikely advocate for unformulaic romance, and his insights throw A Case of You right back into the world of cliches like the last-ditch race through streets to a spurned lover’s arms.
But the scene with Vaughn (who’s joined by Vaughn/Jon Favreau pal Peter Billingsley) offers just the illusion of unconventionality the film needs to let viewers enjoy it for what it is. That effort is made easier by on-target appearances by Rockwell, Brendan Fraser, and Peter Dinklage, who puts a fresh spin on the archetype of the cooler-than-thou barista.
Production Company: Lagniappe Films, Holly Wiersma Productions
Cast: Justin Long, Keir O’Donnell, Evan Rachel Wood, Sienna Miller, Vince Vaughn, Sam Rockwell, Busy Philipps, Peter Dinklage, Brendan Fraser
Director: Kat Coiro
Screenwriters: Justin Long, Christian Long, Keir O’Donnell
Producers: Justin Long, Keir O’Donnell, Logan Levy, Jesse Kennedy, Holly Wiersma
Executive producers: Christian Long, Jessica Neuman, Lati Graubman, Christa Campbell, Cassian Elwes, Robert Barnum, Brice Sanderford
Director of photography: Doug Chamberlain
Production designer: Rick Butler
Music: Mateo Messina
Costume designer: Lynn Falconer
Editors: Matthew Landon, Adam Catino
Sales: Cassian Elwes, CAA
No rating, 91 minutes
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