Missed Connections 2023 Movie Review
He stands between her and a can of sardines, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Mae’s (Miles Ocampo) grocery-shopping excursion becomes one of the things in the title of the movie when she meets Norman (Kelvin Miranda) and her eyes go glassy and glazed like the object of her every desire has just magically manifested in front of her in a kelly green T-shirt. She lightly stalks him to the checkout lane and gazes at him in awe like a believer at the actual foot of their actual god. Maybe the weird vibes she emanates results in a non-exchange of contact information, but it also allows her to employ the titular plot mechanism: She logs on a missed-connections site, posts a message for “Mr. Green” and squeals like a maniac when he later posts a message for “Grocery Girl.” His description of said female is vague but Mae just knows it’s gotta be her, which doesn’t set her up at all for disappointment, right?
Wrong! See, she isn’t Norman’s “Grocery Girl,” which he points out when they get together, but she just pushes right past that and hopes to endear herself to him anyway. She has an in: He’s a tech guy who can code and she needs someone to gussy up the retail website for her silkscreen T-shirt business. He’s hired! And he agrees to go back to her house and get to work, but not until they show each other their ID in a very strange and awkward and unnecessary scene. Anyone who believes one’s surroundings are a reflection of the person would raise an eyebrow at Mae’s home, which is cluttered and messy, an explosion of clothing and books and papers and cardboard boxes and one rather cute cat. He works and she flirts and he’s oblivious (or ignoring her) as she throws herself at him. He whips the site into shape and head-on-the-table dozes off, and she leans over and… sniffs him. Are we supposed to like Mae after she does this creepy shit?
And that’s not the weirdest thing about her. There’s this guy Mark (JC Santos) who at first seems to be her roommate or maybe an annoying neighbor, because he keeps showing up randomly in her house, wearing a bathrobe and goofy socks, talking about how they used to be a couple. The wily among us might spot some clues that he may not exist on this physical plane, like he’s a ghost or a memory; whatever he is, he’s definitely some of Mae’s baggage. And then the plot thicks as the real Grocery Girl, Julia (Chie Filomeno) contacts Norman. Kudos to Norman for being straight-up crystal-clear with Mae: he’s interested in Julia. Mae stalks him and spies on them while they’re out on a date and sees that Julia is a gussied-up girly-girl influencer with perfect hair and makeup and all that. Which stirs envy within Mae, who’s the type of movie character a hacky tagline would describe as “quirky.” Also, “in need of a makeover,” which of course happens, because she’s determined to win this guy at all costs.
None of Missed Connections is convincing when it needs to be. The screenplay is all bum notes, a strung-together collection of inelegantly staged scenes populated with hastily sketched characters working through shoddy situations and reciting bland dialogue. Nearly 80 minutes go by before Ocampo delivers an honest, grounded sentiment, and by then, we’ve either dozed off, picked up our phones for an apathetic scroll or begun plumbing the streaming menu for something else to watch.
The root of the story is Mae’s state of psychological limbo. She seems to have no friends or family beyond one “auntie” she confides in. She seems to have not yet realized the potential of herself and her homegrown T-shirt business. She seems to define herself by whatever happened with her traumatic previous relationship. She seems to be rather immature for a self-employed, self-made woman. She seems to frequently be talking to an apparition. She seems to be a key candidate for psychotherapy, but that’s too much of a reasonable solution in a movie that wants to be wacky, thoughtful and sentimental, but doesn’t quite know how to achieve that.
The key word here is “seems,” because the movie isn’t fully invested in Mae as a fleshed-out, relatable, recognizable human being. There’s a major rift between her inner and outer self. But the inevitable mending of Mae’s broken heart-slash-personality is explored in a frustratingly vague, simplistic manner that, fittingly, matches the movie’s amateurish technical execution. It’s laughable when it’s at its most dramatic, and inspires indifference in the face of its comedic overtures. And even then, Missed Connections is profoundly forgettable.