What’s the guts with Netflix’s new NZ-set rom-com? Tim Batt (who’s already done the hard yards (re)watching mainstream US “romantic” “comedies”) finds out.
Falling Inn Love feels like the ultimate realisation of John Key’s efforts as Minister of Tourism. A 90-minute squint-and-I-guess-it-looks-like-small-town-NZ tourism ad contained inside of a middling and non-offensive 90-minute rom-com.
Written by the California duo responsible for The Cable Guy (why not?) and starring Cuban-American musician/actor/entrepreneur Christina Milian (whose sprawling Wikipedia page was ABSOLUTELY written by herself), the big thing that’s going to fuck everyone off is the Kiwi leading man is a bloody Aussie, Adam Demos. Demos plays subdued, rugged and handy Jake—a bloke who looks like he’d star as the plumber in the most upmarket pornography money can buy. He co-stars against uptight, self-reliant city slicker Milian.
The plot centres around American-out-of-water Gabriela (Milian), who wins an inn in an email scam that involves her paying a never-revealed fee WITH HER CREDIT CARD to enter an online contest. How this movie is not about identity fraud and inevitable bankruptcy after handing over your Visa digits on the internet speaks to this film’s inability to get distracted by reality.
To give you an idea of the level of com in this rom-com, there’s a goat whose mere recurring appearance on screen serves as set up and punchline several times. Fine, whatever. There’s no sheep shagging jokes, so that’s a win? Entirely devoid of subtlety (two American finance dude-bro foils are literally named Chad and Kyle) and obviously with a punishing title, Falling Inn Love’s paint by numbers script actually wasn’t enough to stop some true, lovely moments from Kiwi actors.
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Claire Chitham (Waverley from Shortland Street)’s absence from the film’s IMDB page at the time of writing is a crime considering her substantial screen time and genuine charm. Anna Julienne (Maia from Shortland Street) as the uptight Kiwi villain is palpably annoying, presumably by design. Blair Strang (Rangi from Shortland Street) and Jonathan Martin (Marty from Shortland Street) however play a less-than-convincing local gay couple and really beg the question of why gay actors weren’t chosen for both roles. Irene Wood (Liz from Shortland Street) is in about 16 frames of the movie but her considerable comedy ability managed to get a real laugh out of me while I was hunched over a tablet with headphones on at 11pm consuming this cinematic pop tart.
There are some sins against our country. In a hammy picnic scene, Captain Kiwi—Jake—pulls out a Vegemite sandwich and an “L&P soda” which gives the impression of a script constructed by an AI instructed to make a movie set in New Zealand. This is coupled with some truly criminal shoe-horning of near-enough Kiwi colloquialisms that are not entirely sweet as. However, I just couldn’t muster the effort to give a shit. This is a conveyer belt rom-com that got some Kiwi actors some paycheques. I’m down with that.
There is one very specific target market this movie is built for: Kiwis in London who have just gotten out of a long relationship. Some wine coma-ed 26-year-old Wellingtonian in Shepherd’s Bush who can’t stop crying.
You’ll forgive the fact that the fictional town is Thames. You can overlook the weird lingering drone shots and close-ups of fire trucks (in a visible example of Sunk Cost Fallacy, the duration of these sequences has clearly been justified by the cost of shooting them). You can even switch off to the fair dinkum Kiwi imposter. You can just enjoy a pair of capable, eye-candy-level stars supported by half a doz Kiwi actors and a plot so predictable, it rivals basic math.
So why not watch this dumb fucking movie? It’s not hurting anyone. It’s on Netflix. They say ‘New Zealand’ a bunch of times in an American accent. We used to love that shit. The planet’s burning down anyway, may as well spend a night cuddled up on the couch with your partner seeing some people aspire to create a Hallmark movie (an ambition, in itself, hilariously absurd) set in our neck of the woods. Get amongst, dickheads.