By Preston Wilder
Lily Collins is Rosie. Lily Collins is delightful. She’s fresh-faced and wide-eyed, and made a very winning Snow White in Mirror, Mirror. If you want to see Lily Collins smiling through her tears, giving rueful little shrugs and trying not to show how unhappy she is for 102 minutes, this half-British rom-com (actually more rom than com) is the film to see – but really, why would you want to? At least it’s Lily Collins.
Love, Rosie is proof that it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. The film has some good ideas, and might well have been poignant in other hands – but the treatment is tacky, the tone confused and the overall effect deeply enervating. Much of the blame falls on German director Christian Ditter, who (it turns out) has a background in children’s films – and much of Love, Rosie feels like it could’ve been aimed at tween girls. Take Bethany, for instance, Rosie’s posh rival, who becomes a fashion model while our heroine makes her living scrubbing floors – and at one point checks in to the hotel where Rosie’s working. “Can I get some Evian sent up to my room? It’s the only water I can drink!” trills Bethany, sounding like a teenage princess on the Disney Channel. Yes – but then, in the very next scene, an important character dies unexpectedly, and the tone turns abruptly grown-up.
Who is this thing even aimed at? The source is a book by Cecelia Ahern, purveyor of soggy chick-lit, but some of it – as already mentioned – feels childish and some of it is ‘rude’ in a giggly self-conscious way, as if appealing to older teens. We meet Rosie at her 18th birthday party, “most of which,” a caption notes, “she was too drunk to remember” – she ends up having her stomach pumped – a detail that seems to presume an audience of sixth-formers. That’s also where she kisses Alex (Sam Claflin), only to spend the rest of the film trying not to kiss him. There’s a moment, when he’s leaving for Boston, when they almost kiss; they lean forward, and their mouths actually twitch (!), but it doesn’t happen, dooming us to another hour of will-they-won’t-they.
That’s the plot, more or less, the obvious ending delayed ad nauseam (the film admits as much, at one point focusing cheekily on a sign that reads “Expect Delays”). There’s a bit of One Day in the years-passing conceit, plus assorted DNA from the many rom-coms where the stars never quite align so a couple can make the leap from friends to lovers (“We keep missing each other!” wails Rosie. “Maybe it’s just not meant to be”). Rosie has an earthy BFF, whose only function in the film is to be an earthy BFF – though Alex doesn’t get the inevitable oversexed male friend, maybe because the film is geared to a more girly audience. There’s also a ridiculous caricature of a high-achieving American yuppy, not just getting her hooks into Alex but also daring to suggest that baked beans have “zero nutritional value”.
Again and again, Love, Rosie hits notes that could’ve been sweet – but hits them so clumsily that they just sound tinny. The letter from Rosie’s dad could’ve been touching – but it’s played for cheap uplift with an over-active soundtrack, so it just seems manipulative. The soundtrack is a problem in general, Ditter going for some odd musical cues (‘Tiny Dancer’? Gilbert O’Sullivan?) and overdoing the musical montages; any time a serious point threatens to emerge, it’s promptly smothered by a flurry of musical moments. What’s it like to be a single mother? Here’s a quick montage of “rules”, like for instance “Never breast-feed in public”. Look, a silly man just fell off his bike watching Rosie breast-feed!
Much of the film doesn’t even make sense. It’s not really clear why Rosie doesn’t tell Alex that she’s pregnant (yes, they had a pact to go to Boston together, but it’s not like his life has to change just because hers does; he’s not even the father), choosing instead to suffer nobly. It’s also not clear why a bridesmaid would say “This is the happiest day of my life” – but I won’t say more, lest I spoil the film’s one meagre twist. I can see Love, Rosie appealing to a certain niche, despite its awfulness. It’s a good old wallow in female masochism, Rosie going through all the various stages of denial, self-sacrifice and long-distance love (Alex is just a cipher, despite his endearing habit of having “weird dreams” where he sees himself as various inanimate objects). She does get a prime ‘You go, girl!’ moment, decking her faithless creep of a husband with a single punch – but mostly she just smiles through her tears, gives rueful little shrugs and tries not to show how unhappy she is. At least she’s Lily Collins.
DIRECTED BY Christian Ditter
STARRING Lily Collins, Sam Claflin, Jaime Winstone
UK/Germany 2014 102 mins