Something peculiar is happening in a Netflix headquarters somewhere, in an office occupied by a sharply dressed executive director with a penchant for timeless classic labels that he gets exclusively from Saville Row—no off the rack, thank you very much. He loves his Mimosas, Sunday brunches, weekly cross fit sessions, and his dog, Hugo, with whom he shares a life within his Upper East Side walk-up. He also lives and dies for romantic comedies.
That’s the only explanation I can think of for Netflix’s sudden gamut of rom-coms, headlined by actors that are no lightweights in their field. Think Rebel Wilson in Isn’t It Romantic?, Ali Wong and Randall Park in Always Be My Maybe, Brie Larson and Samuel L Jackson in Unicorn Store, and Gina Rodriguez in Someone Great.
Not that that’s all Netflix has been serving up. Every hard-hitting documentary about capitalism or a failed music festival or, is followed by a feel-good, cliché movie with a plotline that’s as predictable as the weather in Singapore (except for that heavy shower on Wednesday. That was a pleasant surprise and a God-send).
As the end of 2019 slowly creeps upon us, we are blessed with Falling Inn Love—a title I clicked on only because its thumbnail is a brilliant exercise in Photoshop and Illustrator. There’s a devastatingly and hopelessly gorgeous man, and a petite young woman holding paintbrushes dipped in pink, looking deeply into each other’s eyes, superimposed on a background of a lovely sunset on a clear evening when the skies are a riot of ombre. I refuse to believe this is the thumbnail artwork that Netflix thinks would lure me in. I’m lured.
Falling Inn Love (which from here on will be referred to as Falling because its intentional pun kills me inside) stars pop music scene alum, Christina Milian as Gabriela, a big city advertising executive who has lost her job, and her boyfriend, yet still finds a way to keep her apartment for her best friend to use as a sanctuary of sorts.
In a drunken stupor, she wins an inn in far-flung New Zealand where she meets Jake (Adam Demos)—a born and raised New Zealander, dashing, built like a Greek god, and a perfect metaphor for the ideal leading man. In the next one hour and a half, we are introduced to the motley of supporting characters so in vogue with a rom-com such as this—the dependable sidekick (Shelley played by Claire Chitham), misunderstood villain (Charlotte played by Anna Jullienne), and comedic relief (Gilbert the Goat).
The movie centres around Gabriela’s decision to pack her bags and leave behind a flailing career and a broken heart. She arrives at an inn that is abandoned, in disrepair and in need of sprucing up.
Much like picking up the bits and pieces of her life together, she slowly but surely rebuilds the dilapidated inn with the help of hunky, but vulnerable love interest, Jake, who repairs not only the inn’s broken parts but also Gabriela’s broken heart. It’s kitschy, but Falling does not for a minute pretend to be anything but.
In one scene, Jake was teaching Gabriela how to clean grout with a sponge, and, just as surely as the music crescendos, their hands meet, complete with a brief but longing glance into each other’s eyes. In another, they fall on each other and almost kisses—their plan thwarted by the affable Gilbert the Goat.
The storyline is undeniably predictable. Its a classic tale of how the good guys always win, love triumphs over setbacks, and life decisions are made via a dramatic change of heart. When not busy being the textbook example of a rom-com, Falling manages to squeeze in very relatable themes of the zeitgeist—sustainability, gay marriage, and even a nod to the Māori culture. At times, the movie does feel like a very expensive, elaborate New Zealand tourism spiel; but vast dunes, beautiful crimson sunsets, and majestic overhanging cliffs are hardly any reason to complain.
Falling Inn Love is helplessly romantic, and at times, painfully cliché. It’s very expected. It’s very typical. And I dare say, it’s those very reasons that make this movie such a pleasurable viewing. Your heart may already turn to stone, or, like me, you may have stopped believing in love, but I assure you that a night on the sofa with a good bowl of Irvin’s Salted Egg Yolk Fish Skin, a large cup of Koi Milk tea, and a healthy dose of Falling, might just make you a believer again.
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