Live. Date. Repeat.
The ideal first date and that titular mentality that so many romantic comedies bank on is a concept that, in real life, we wish could be so cinematically charming. And the idea that a film would take such a concept and build a time travel-influenced narrative around it sounds incredibly promising. What a shame we can’t time travel back and warn ourselves from 90 minutes prior to not waste time on Alex Lehmann‘s premise-squandering effort.
Meet Cute doesn’t exactly detail the first date of motor-mouth Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) and the more casual Gary (a charming Pete Davidson). No, when the film opens and we see the two flirting easily at the bar and swanning off for dinner, we come to learn that their actions – her approaching him at the bar, him dropping the lightly amusing line of having a “Sophie’s choice” when it comes to dinner options – have long been played out before, because, wouldn’t you know it, Sheila has stumbled upon a time machine and has been using its abilities – which seemingly can only take her back 24 hours in the past – to re-visit her date with Gary in an effort to get it perfect.
Of course, perfect is relative, and every single date (which is always just the first for Gary in his timeline) ends differently; predominantly with Gary leaving in a degree of anger over Sheila’s desperation to make their courtship work. And therein lies one of the main problems with Meet Cute as a film, because, as charming as Gary seems to be, we’re never entirely sure why it’s specifically him and just that first date that Sheila so desperately wants to re-visit. Noga Pneuli‘s script lays heavily on the drama side of things in making Sheila depressed and, evidently, suicidal, and there could be plenty said of the film leaning into a type of saviour complex in Gary, but everything feels so surface level that our emotional input is never earned.
It also doesn’t help that for a so called “romantic comedy” it never feels either romantic nor comedic. There’s decent chemistry between Cuoco and Davidson, but you can’t help but wonder why Sheila’s going to so much effort for this guy. He’s likeable, sure, but is he travel-back-in-time-for likeable? That’s heavily debatable. It’s also to the film’s detriment that Sheila is a particularly challenging character. She’s definitely written in a “too much” type of manner – manic, pushy, electric – and I don’t know if any actress could have made her entirely agreeable, but Cuoco does what she can with it. The actress is capable of making live-wire characters very much her own – see both seasons of The Flight Attendant for proof – and though Meet Cute doesn’t always serve her, it’s at least exciting to see her embrace wilder roles that aren’t carbon copies of her Big Bang persona.
As to be expected with a movie dealing with time travel, the idea of altering someone’s personality to hopefully suit your ideals and the butterfly effect that comes from such is lightly explored, but Pneuli never feels as if she entirely has a handle on any of her narrative strands to follow through on this being anything more than a light note in an overall story that feels more like an elevator pitch than a detailed story. Romantic comedies dealing with various forms of time manipulation have worked in the past – Groundhog Day, About Time, and Sliding Doors, for example – and the pitch here should’ve been an entirely easy sell, but conflicting genre tones, characters we never entirely understand, and a “message” that feels drastically hollow result in this meet cute being anything but.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Meet Cute is now streaming on Prime Video.