To be fair, the #epicfails of romance dramedy “Hopeless Romantic” doesn’t feel written and directed by committee. Half a dozen directors and eight credited screenwriters don’t mean it plays “choppy” and uneven, like many an “anthology” film before it. There’s a consistent pace, vibe and tone pretty much throughout.
If it doesn’t work, it’s because the episodes intended to be funny only occasionally are, and the “edgy” scenes cross over into off-putting.
Lynda Boyd of Netflix’s “Virgin River” stars in this make-work project for every Canadian actress under the sun. She plays Anna, recently-widowed and attending a friend’s wedding.
She’s a cardiologist, able to define “broken heart syndrome” as a cardiac illness that sometimes accompanies the stress of a romantic loss. Yes, that’s a MUCH better title for the film as “Hopeless Romantic” has been used many times before.
Anna is fretting over the wedding reception speech she’s slated to give, and as she frets, she encounters, stumbles into and meets women who — with a little prompting –relate tales of heartbreak, “ghosting,” death, actionably inappropriate student/”teacher” canoodling and barely-avoided not-quite-a-date date rape.
There are seven such meetings/flashbacks, including Anna’s own.
The funniest is the comically-unhappy encounter a “cougar” (Amy Groening of “Goon”) has with the mother and sister of a punk boy toy she’s been hooking up with. Mom went to school with her and bullied her. And she’s still at it, as “Simmy” searches the 24 year-old’s apartment for pills she lost there. Her paramour’s jerk teen sister videos the entire humiliating affair, which doesn’t really end with an out-the-window escape.
Groening is the stand-out performer here.
Joy (Kirstin Howell) flashes back to her first boy-encounter, a semi-funny/tweens-misunderstand sex talk tale of the boy who threw rocks at her to get her attention when she was 11. She never solved the mysteries of attraction and romance, but not because of an avoided “birds and bees” talk with her rattled dad.
The only other lighthearted end-of-love memory has a tipsy ER doc (Susan Kent) relating stumbling into an “adult beginners” swim class that features another woman who assures her it’s a “great place to meet guys.” Ms. On the Prowl promptly sets her eyes on a ringless man of appropriate age, who happens to be the doctor’s just-divorced ex.
A couple of chuckles ensue.
Other stories, of a young woman struggling with the humiliations of dating in an age of “ghosting,” a young waitress recalling her first same-sex crush, that near date-rape thing, etc. are sadder, more flatly-played and intriguing only in how problematic some of them are.
The best connection to “anthology” as a genre is the film’s don’t-quite-work sequences weighing down the ones that do, or come close to a decent payoff.
“Mixed bag” comes with the “anthology film” territory.
MPA Rating: unrated, alcohol abuse, sexual situations, profanity, innuendo
Cast: Lynda Boyd, Kirstin Howell, Francine Deschepper, Amy Groening, Katie Dorian, Susan Kent, Emily Power
Credits: Directed by Martine Blue, Deanne Foley, Latonia Hartery, Stephanie Joline, Ruth Lawrence and Megan Wennberg. Script by Martine Blue, Emily Bridger, Jay Dahl, Deanne Foley, Stephanie Joline, Ruth Lawrence, Iain Macleod and Megan Wennberg. A Game Theory release.
Running time: 1:26