‘I Want You Back’ is the Perfect Romcom
It all happens in the first three minutes. Peter gets dumped by Anne, and Emma gets dumped by Noah. We haven’t even had a chance to form any opinions of these two long-term relationships, and just like that, they are both kaput. In I Want You Back, director Jason Orley and screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger toss us a curveball by having the dumpees form an alliance to help the other win back their dumpers. It’s an unconventional approach in this genre and it works due to some sharp writing, and the extraordinary comic timing of the two leads.
Nice guy Peter (Charlie Day, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) loves kids, loves the elderly, and loves Anne (Gina Rodriguez, Annihilation, 2018). She abruptly dumps him because he’s a bit boring and she wants a “bigger life”…her dream is to be a Broadway star. Peter is crushed when she dumps him. Emma (Jenny Slate, Obvious Child, 2014) works as a receptionist at an orthodontist office, and Noah (Scott Eastwood, The Outpost, 2019) appreciates her humor, but is turned off by her lack of career ambition. Mind you, he’s a fitness trainer. Emma is crushed when he dumps her.
Peter and Emma have a sobbing meet-cute in the stairwell of the office building where they both work, and soon, drunk karaoke and lots of alcohol lead to quite an intricate scheme. Emma will seduce Anne’s new boyfriend Logan (Manny Jacinto), while Peter will befriend Noah and talk him out of love with new girlfriend Ginny (Clark Backo). The expected results find the appropriate exes crawling back into familiar arms. It’s a plan seemingly doomed to failure, but certain to provide many opportunities for laughter.
The scenes featuring Charlie Day and Jenny Slate are easily the film’s best. These are two talented and funny actors who play off each other beautifully. Of course, we presume to know where all of this is headed, and it may involve a threesome and a balcony jump into a hot tub…or it may not. The concept of sabotaging someone else’s happiness in hopes they will return to you is a bit psychotic, to say the least. But it’s all handled with kid gloves and plays off the old adage, “misery loves company.” A bit of truth and relatability occurs as both Emma and Peter dread the idea of starting over in love – a quite common dread. The film kicks off with Jimmy Durante singing “The Glory of Love,” and though you’ll likely laugh a few times, you’ll likely notice the lack of glory in the behavior of Emma and Peter.
I Want You Back is exclusively on Amazon Prime.