You can’t blame rom-com filmmakers for taking shortcuts.
So few of them work, make an emotional and comic connection and deliver a satisfying finale, it’s no wonder that screenwriters and directors go for “sure thing,” elements that worked in romantic comedies that preceded them.
So sure, work in a little Meg Ryan faking an orgasm from “When Harry Met Sally,” a little John Cusack and a boom box from “Say Anything,” buy the rights to that Scottish pop tune that taught us all the meaning of “havering.”
It’s only a problem when these little borrowings are the only things that work in your movie.
The Spanish romance “Te quiero, imbécil (I Love You, Stupid)” is the cut-and-paste job in question, a script with modest potential, a passable cast and cutesy execution.
And about the best you can say about it is that it finishes well.
It’s another story of a poor schlub (Quim Gutiérrez) dumped the night he proposes. Ana (Alba Ribas) gives Marcos the “take a break” (in Spanish, with English subtitles) speech, and he moves out and back in with his parents “for just a couple of weeks.”
We know better, and sure enough, the next day he’s laid off at the TV ad agency where he works.
His hunky pal Diego (Alfonso Bassave ) gives him the “monogamy doesn’t work” get OUT there speech. But Marcos finds the best “real” advice comes from the Internet, from the videos of an Argentine Lothario (Ernesto Alterio) with advice to the lovelorn.
A little screaming “mother—–r!” into the ether, more attention to grooming, hitting the gym? Yawn.
The better advice, straight out of every movie like this since the 1950s classic “School for Scoundrels,” is “be an ass—-.” That’s how Marcos lands a job at a sports media company where Diego works — via threats to tell the ladies’ man Diego’s secrets.
A couple of storytelling gimmicks are half-assed into the picture. Marcos complains and narrates to the camera (sometimes in voice-over) about his woes, his “What I SHOULD have said” moments. This comes and goes. Meh.
Funnier are various occasional online video suggestions from “influencer” Sebastián Venet (Alterio). Going to a party?
“Don’t be near the bar when the ice runs out and the most beautiful girl at the party wants a drink.” Nobody wants to be the doormat making an ice run for a pretty woman who expects such as her birthright, and won’t remember your name.
If the writers had more zingers and observations like this they should’ve used them. Director Laura Mañá can’t make something out of nothing.
Natalia Tena plays Raquel, the mercurial, talented classmate from high school Marcos runs into, the woman who always gets his attention with “Oye, imbécil (Hey, stupid)!”
She’s pink-haired and insulting and vivacious. And while she may have had a crush on Marcos way back when, she’s way too cool for that now. She’ll just give him a makeover and a tattoo and play her accordion and sing and let’s see how long this takes each of them to figure each other out.
The metrosexual makeover jokes — facial masks and foodie gossip (among guys) may play better in Spain and in Spanish than they do in English. They’re passé in the extreme in this hemisphere.
Tena has the potential to be “that woman (girl),” the cute spitfire the guy must eventually come around to falling for. But the two of them don’t have much chemistry, and the script’s only help is in having her insult him constantly early on and having him dismiss her, hurtfully, later.
And then we get to the whole “Say Anything” and “Benny & Joon” stuff, and you kind of wish there were more of a movie before that. Because even “The Proclaimers” greatest hit can’t save this wilted romance.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, sex, profanity, alcohol, nudity
Cast: Quim Gutiérrez, Natalia Tena, Alfonso Bassave, Ernesto Alterio and Alba Ribas
Credits: Directed by Laura Mañá, script by Abraham Sastre, Iván José Bouso. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:27