May 29, 2024

Choose Love 2023 Movie Review

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Choose Love 2023 Movie Review

Back in 2018 with “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” Netflix introduced interactive features as a way for viewers to take charge of a movie, using a controller to select diverse story paths. The filmmakers offered choices branching off from pivotal points within the narrative that led to a range of conclusions that either worked, eventually triggering the end credits, or didn’t, propelling the viewer back to an earlier point to try again. More programming utilizing this style shortly followed in other genres: the scripted comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend,” the animated special “We Lost Our Human,” and the reality series “Ranveer vs. Wild with Bear Grylls.”

This innovative concept is now applied to the streamer’s growing stable of saccharine-but-sentimental romantic comedy features with “Choose Love.” Director Stuart McDonald (“A Perfect Pairing”) and writer-producer Josann McGibbon (“Runaway Bride”) center their tale on an indecisive career-driven woman who must choose between three suitors from her past, present and future begging for her romantic affections. Since the genre has yet to accept polyamory as a viable solution, we’re supposed to do the choosing for her, guiding her to ultimate happiness. However, what each of these journeys unwittingly unveils is that our heroine is rarely given much opportunity for the introspection necessary for her own clarity, let alone the grace to explore who she is outside of her relationships to men.

Cami (Laura Marano) isn’t exactly feeling fulfilled. She lives in Los Angeles in a cozy home with her sister (Megan Smart), brother-in-law (Benjamin Hoetjes) and young niece (Nell Fisher) nearby, but would like to start a family of her own. She has a steady job as a recording engineer, but would love greater artistic challenges and a significant pay raise. And she has an attractive, attentive boyfriend of three years, Paul (Scott Michael Foster), whom she nervously suspects is about to pop the question. Unsure about her future and with the permanence of commitment weighing heavily on her mind, Cami consults a psychic (Jacque Drew) who informs her there are two more suitors soon to enter the picture: Jack (Jordi Webber), a photographer/hippie she dated in high school, and Rex (Avan Jogia), a rock-‘n’-roller who could make her career aspirations a reality.

The user interface is fairly straightforward. Cami continually breaks the fourth wall, à la “Fleabag,” addressing the audience when her conscience is in crisis mode to alert us to an impending decision to be made. In the first act, we’re given two options that, while different, both feed into similar following sequences. It’s not until Cami has a vivid dream in which her trio of prospective beaus pointedly tell her to choose them that our choices for her splinter into radically divergent avenues. For folks who are just as indecisive as the heroine, this poses a lot of pressure to make it to the end credits or find themselves caught in a hellacious, unending cycle of second-guessing.

From the meta-themes centered on controlling fate and destiny to the characters and their conflicts, everything hovers at surface level. It’s difficult to be fully immersed in Cami’s world as the film’s problem-solving demands our active participation. Men are one-dimensional at best, used solely to further her arc. Though Jogia, Foster and Webber share a flirtatious chemistry with an effervescent Marano, who sparkled in “The Royal Treatment,” all struggle to elevate the lackluster material. Rex’s catchy song, “All I Want Is You,” is done a total disservice by taking a Harry Styles-inspired bop and transforming it into a rejected John Mayer-esque smooth jam. Sadly, it’s not a choice we’re consulted on, but one Cami makes herself — which causes us to question whether she’s fit for her job.

Surprisingly, even our heroine is dealt short shrift in each story track. We’re told what her ambitions and aspirations are rather than being shown them in any insightful manner. We’re rewarded with richer hijinks and hilarity when we choose underhanded, deceitful things for her to do, like lie by omission, cheat by smooching Jack, and not be honest with herself or her perspective partners. Whenever she breaks up with one beau for another, there are options not offered that would have led to earned emotional impact for us and the characters we’re controlling.

Much like how love works in real life, there are no definitive, correct answers to select that gently guide us to a happy ending. Befitting our cinematic avatar’s tentativeness in exploring relationships’ “what-ifs,” at the end of our journey, we’re given the option to redo our choices. In theory, it makes for an interesting experiment, but in execution, all it offers is one disappointing resolution after another. These filmmakers have trouble finessing their shenanigan-laced setups into anything but frequently frustrating, unsatisfactory conclusions. This title urges us to choose love, but audiences should choose to not play along.

Choose Love 2023 Movie Review