Romance films

Love in the Villa review – immediately forgettable Netflix romcom | Romance movies

Jhe Netflix Love in the Villa confection invokes two well-established traditions. There’s the general romantic comedy formula – two characters at odds, a cute encounter, a deception/revelation, an epiphany, a repeated joke, someone running somewhere in a time crunch. And then there’s the manufactured flavors of Netflix’s comfort food: recognizable B-to-C list talent, a nerdy locale, banal Twitter-inspired jokes, distinctly cheap production, passable but not particularly invigorating chemistry. Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, Love in the Villa combines the two in another short-lived confection off the streaming assembly line – harmless and basic enjoyable but immediately forgettable.

The hook here is that the central couple, played by The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham and The Umbrella Academy’s Tom Hopper, meet in picturesque Verona – a romantic spot that’s as nerdy as it gets, but a great treat for the eyes as the sun sets. a summer when apparently all the celebrities visited Italy. Verona is, of course, the setting for Romeo and Juliet or, as Graham’s Julie tells her class of third graders, “the most romantic and tragic love story of all time.” . True to form, Julie is a hopeless, over-achieving romantic made up to the 11th – she dreams of seeing Juliet’s balcony in Verona, she plasticizes her travel plans and spends 7% of her vacation time on the beach. “spontaneity”.

When Brandon (Raymond Ablack), her boyfriend of four years who seems taken aback by her neuroticism, dumps her on the eve of their vacation in Verona, Julie proceeds solo. She endures a flight from hell, lost luggage, and a reckless taxi driver who almost crashes trying to hand out her mother’s cannoli from the front seat (this movie might be a little rude to Italians) . Supposedly worst of all, Julie enters her private villa to find a tall, shirtless, very fit British man drinking red wine; the villa was accidentally double booked. Hopper’s Charlie, a wine importer, insists on staying in “the romantic villa» for the course of Vinitaly, a real conference of wine professionals, to the great displeasure of Julie, even if we do not know how this evolution could be considered other than fortuitous for her.

Then begins a silly war around the villa, in which the illusion that these two very attractive people cannot stand each other never crosses the bar of conviction. (On the illusions note, it’s impressive that for much of the film, the costume designers make the bright Graham look frumpy in the clothes from the gift shop.) Julie is stubborn and relishes conflict. Charlie is pretentious and withdrawn – “I’m British, so I don’t show emotion, okay? he said, encouraging Julie to put her feelings in a box.

Love in the Villa seems to aim for Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s levels of erotic hatred, but despite Hooper and Graham’s commitment to appearing genuinely embittered, the conflict barely reaches a boil. What you get is a modestly entertaining escalation of deranged things to do to a quasi-stranger – unleashing cats on someone with a severe allergy, calling the cops, a food fight that doubles as an excuse to name Italian cheese. (Hopper and Graham, at least, seem to have had fun throwing pasta.)

The protagonists’ game translates into engaging performances, which have enough charm to sustain several unnecessary delays until the inevitable (there’s no reason Love in the Villa should be closer to 2 hours than 90 minutes). Graham, in particular, imbues Julie with a surprising mix of wholesome Midwestern sweetness (she’s from Minnesota) and devilish competitiveness. It’s somewhat refreshing to see a classic Type-A rom-com heroine like Julie not fall into the over-ambitious girlboss stereotype; she is perfectly happy teaching elementary school and encouraging young children to fall in love with books, which she rightly considers a fulfilling career.

But as with any travel romance, the moderate spell breaks with the intrusion of normalcy, in the form of their former love interests (Charlie’s is played by Hopper’s real-life wife, Laura). Their ignorance of Charlie and Julie’s connection is so absurd that it deflates any remaining tension. At that point, it’s best to jump into the overly long resolution with its many invocations of Romeo and Juliet, which nod to cornyness while still fully indulging in it.

Charlie may try to cut it with dry asides, but this seriousness is simple and untricky. Love at the Villa is well-being, not effort. Nothing ever reaches the level of unobservable, but nothing has distinctive resistance either – you can feel the romance here and there, like walking past a bakery display case, which make up the film’s most alluring shots. Rather, the film is effective mass advertising for Italian tourism – fresh produce, a steady stream of wine, rose-gold sunlight on terracotta rooftops, two seconds of Venchi promo. Literally and figuratively, Love in the Villa captures a tourist gift shop – one thing to browse, perhaps enjoy (ironically or sincerely, often both) and then move on.