This new comedy is a rom-com where the rom is very much on the back foot – in fact the romance is basically no more than an excuse to lampoon the genre clichés. Director David Wain and his co-writer Michael Showalter have set their dial resolutely to silly, but the story is actually no more ridiculous than any other film of the genre. This is first and foremost a parody which is coruscatingly spot-on.
Amy Poehler plays Molly, the manager and owner of a tiny mom and pop sweet shop in New York (a city which is very much another character in the film), while Paul Rudd plays big business corporate apparatchik Joel. Of course, as it utterly typical in rom-coms, they are just bound to fall in love and “with hilarious consequences.”
The film takes place entirely in flashback as Joel and Molly relate their story to another couple in a New York (a city which is very much another character in the film) restaurant. And we’re not quite in the world of Airplane and Top Secret, but almost. There are visual and verbal gags aplenty and satisfyingly the movie is very funny. As an audience we’re used to seeing both Rudd and Poehler tackling these kind of films completely straight and in They Came Together they play on these normally charming screen presences to great effect.
They are given superb support from the rest of the cast; for example Christopher Meloni as Joel’s boss at Candy Systems Research is wonderful as the stuffy executive who inevitably relents when shown true love. He also provides a stark warning to why you should never wear a one piece costume to a fancy dress party if you think you might need the loo. And of course New York is a brilliant backdrop – so much so the running gag about the city being very much another character in the story is just perfect.
On the downside although being incredibly enjoyable, with a very successful gag hit rate, the film is a little bit of a mess. It runs at a very speedy 83 minutes – which gives the suspicion that some of the less successful jokes and storylines may have been cut for time. Unfortunately, although this makes the pace fairly relentless and keeps the attention tight, it does mean that there are threads of story which appear to be lost and go nowhere. Molly has a son, for example, who barely makes an appearance.
Whether these storylines left hanging are a deliberate comment on the ridiculous way rom-coms are generally structured, or just a product of a “let’s throw everything at this and see what sticks in the edit” style of filmmaking is unknown. They do give a sense though, that if they had been properly resolved, the film would have been more memorably satisfying. If they are a joke about traditional Hollywood film structuring, it’s one that falls a bit flat.
That said I enjoyed it a great deal. Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd have an absolutely tremendous chemistry, and make a great screen couple. And more importantly than anything else for a comedy, the film is very funny, with plenty of genuine laugh out loud moments which forgive any of the flaws.
It’s a film definitely worth catching for the laughs. And for a comedy, there’s not much more than you can say than that.
Previously posted on cinetalk.co.uk