A day in the lives and loves of a diverse group of Los Angelenos, as they wrestle with the pitfalls and pleasures of romance across one February 14.
“If you don’t fancy anyone in this film, then you don’t have a pulse,” said the friendly PR lady at the press screening of Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day. And in so doing she paid tribute to what must indeed be the prettiest cast to ever grace a cinema screen. Yet for all Valentine’s Day’s obvious pulse-quickening attributes, ironically what proves its undoing is a lack of real heart.
Following the intertwining lives of a group of Los Angelenos across one Valeninte’s Day, the cute 24-hour structure calls to mind indie favourites like In Search Of A midnight Kiss and Richard Linklater’s masterful Before Sunrise/Sunset double-act, lending Marshall’s film a pleasingly quirkier feel than we’re used to from the director of Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride.
However, it is this that also proves its downfall; shoehorning ten love stories into a few hours gives little time for any of the plots to breathe, with the result a rather glib feel – one main character gets engaged at breakfast, dumped at lunchtime and come evening is bouncing back nicely, never apparently in more pain than you’d expect from a grazed knee. Tonally awkward – lurching from light slapstick to clunky, heavily signposted drama – like that low-cal drink you bought in the foyer, the screenplay leaves a somewhat plastic aftertaste once the sweetness has worn off.
Credit should be given to the stellar cast, though, whose sheer quality does much to disguise this. From Marshall muses Julia Roberts and Hector Eizondo to teen favourites Taylors Lautner and Swift, the heavyweight ensemble bring all their talent to bear, making the most of a handful of laughs and eking out the warm and fuzzy moments; they are all a pleasure to watch.
Still, when the best laugh comes with an end-credits tribute to Marshall’s earlier fairy-tale triumph (also in cinemas now, enjoying a 20th anniversary re-release), far from a celebration of love and romance, it all starts to feel dispiritingly cynical.
Garry Marshall returns to rom-com with an intermittently enjoyable if synthetic fluff-fest with the starriest cast since, er, Rob Marshall's Nine. But if you see one Garry Marshall film starring Julia Roberts this month...