Romantic comedies need two things to work, and alas We’ll Never Have Paris is never funny or charming enough to feel completely successful.
The USP of the movie is that it is based on the real life history of Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory) and his wife, the producer and actor Jocelyn Towne. Helberg wrote the script, a fictionalised version of the real life events, and the pair co-directed it. The weird thing about this is it sounds like they’d been telling people the story and friends must’ve said “Oh that would make a great film.” In the way that anyone who works in an office will at some point will have thought it might make a great sitcom.
The story involves a young ambitious but unsuccessful musician Quinn (Helberg) who’s friend Kelsey (Maggie Grace), a colleague at the florist where he works, surprises him by declaring her love for him just before he is about to propose to his long term girlfriend Devon (Melanie Lynskey). Understandably weirded out and hurt by the comparisons with this statuesque blonde and considerations which are visibly going through his mind, Devon hightails it away to Paris. And while she does this, he tries to get the idea of being with someone else but the only girlfriend he has ever been with out of his head, by sleeping around.
There is one moment where the events coalesce into a scene of pure comedy. It is a scene ripe with comedic ideas but isn’t timed desperately well. In that sense the film has more in common structurally with farce than romantic comedy – both of the main characters could avoid all the misunderstanding by just communicating with each other. Neither of the characters are particularly sympathetic either, both lacking the requisite charm to sell the story. It seems odd that two characters who are so bad at communicating, even after a sweet reconciliation, would want to get married in the first place.
It’s understandable that Towne and Helberg would want to tell their own story, of how an escape to Paris and reconciliation cemented their relationship. But as basis for a romantic comedy it might have been better to allow others to have more fun with the initial premise.
It does feature a great turn by Zachary Quinto as Helberg’s best friend Jameson, who steals every scene he is in. But overall it’s a shame that the possibilities of the premise aren’t given more creative exploration. We’ll Never Have Paris is fine, fitfully amusing in fact, but just not as funny as you’d hope.
We’ll Never Have Paris is out on DVD now.