The Romantics is
the kind of bland romantic melodrama that breeds resentment instead of sympathy
for its young protagonists. Based on a novel by the same name written by
director/writer Galt Niederhoffer, The
Romantics is a lusterless portrayal of unrequited love gone sour over time.
Filled with distracting, blousy pop songs and rote burnt-out character types
whose rowdy bad behavior defines their blasé poses and the defining lack of
romance in their lives, The Romantics
is basically Garden State by way of Margot at the Wedding.
Romantics turns out to be just
another contrived story about a 30-year-old white woman in crisis who gets her
voice back after years of allowing others to speak for her. Laura (Katie
Holmes) is that mojo-less cipher, and the event that will give her back the
right to throw a tantrum and enjoy a happy ending is the marriage of her
ex-boyfriend Tom (Josh Duhamel) and her ex-best friend Lila (Anna Paquin).
Unhappily married couples Tripler and Peter (Malin Akerman and Jeremy Strong)
and Weesie and Jake (Rebecca Lawrence and Adam Brody) and their creepy drunk
friend Chip (Elijah Wood) traipse about the periphery of Laura’s overplot but
are ultimately just foils for her discontent. Laura never got her Prince
Charming and, at the 11th hour, she must so that somebody in the film can go
home happy. Well, maybe somebody other than Candice Bergen, who sadly has an
overglorified walk-on role as Lila’s mom.
Niederhoffer fails to make his characters’ fear of being
drab and tired relatable, mostly because he considers strictly functional
expository dialogue to be an adequate expression of deep-seated discontent.
Paquin and Holmes both gag on climactic pseudo-Chayefyskian monologues that
sound nothing like real human speech. After balking about how significant
Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale once was
to Tom and herself, Laura desperately pouts, “You inspired me!”
Niederhoffer just doesn’t know what to do with the
considerable resources he has on hand, like when he prematurely cuts away from
a gorgeous overhead shot of the thirtysomethings as they come ashore after a
late-night swim, robbing the take of any potential meditative heft. Maybe if
Murphy Brown had more screentime, Niederhoffer would have something.