The moment I saw the trailer for I Want You Back, I knew I had to watch it. Both Jenny Slate and Charlie Day are hilarious, and I was certain it would be a fun time, even if the movie didn’t check all the boxes. So, imagine how psyched I was when the movie completely lived up to the expectations I had.
It was funny, romantic, and, most importantly, it was about flawed, relatable people. Oftentimes in these rom-com spaces, the lead couple is so ridiculously good looking, killing it in everything except romance. It’s nice to have two individuals here who don’t have it together, leaning on each other for support and, through that, understanding what we should seek in a romantic partner.
When Emma (Slate) and Peter (Day) meet, they’re both crying their eyes out in a stairwell of an office building they work at after being dumped by their significant others. They agree to be each other’s Sadness Sister, which is the most adorable thing. Immediately, there’s connection and banter, and the pair start to spend all their free time together. It doesn’t matter where they are, Slate and Day are magnetic on screen together, and I enjoyed their interactions and effervescent chemistry.
As they lament about their breakups, this leads to an ill-conceived plan of trying to ruin the new relationships their former partners currently have. Peter’s ex Anne (Gina Rodriguez) is now with the sexy Drama teacher at her school, played with pretentious perfection by Manny Jacinto, while Emma’s former boyfriend Noah (Scott Eastwood) has grown serious with the lovely Ginny (Clark Backo), who owns a thriving pie business. This is the plan: Emma will seduce Logan (Jacinto), and Peter will become friends with Noah so that he can sway him off the Ginny path. I love how they both agree that Peter’s charms are best employed in friendship rather than seduction, especially since he’s up against the very good looking Noah.
Sometimes rom-coms can become too fixated on the main pairing that the other people aren’t fleshed out as much. This isn’t the case with I Want You Back – every character has their own arc, and it’s carried out in a way that makes sense to who they are. Noah’s life revolves so heavily around health and fitness, so it makes sense that he would want a partner to share that enthusiasm, and even though Anne desires a life of sexy adventures, at the end of the day, she’s not that person, and that’s okay. It’s what movies like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle did very well, which allows the viewers to feel invested in the entire world, not just the central romance.
There were some strange plot points, like Emma being able to volunteer to work on the school play even though she doesn’t have a child at the school, or the night of fun with Isabel May’s Leighton that gets a bit too weird. But hey, the movie took risks, and I can appreciate that.
For me, the very best part about the movie is its commentary on adulthood. I Want You Back acknowledges that being adults doesn’t mean we have it all together. We’re all just plodding along, trying to do our best, still figuring things out along the way. Maybe the most adult thing is to admit these imperfections, and to find someone to hold your hand through it all.
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I Want You Back is charming, relatable, funny; it's basically everything you want in a rom-com.
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