There’s a Hippocratic Oath that anybody tackling the romantic comedy about the mentally ill genre.
You can be moon-eyed, optimistic, maybe a tad unrealistic. But “first, do no harm.”
What, you didn’t realize this was a thing, a whole genre of itself? “Benny & Joon,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Crazy/Beautiful,” “Mad Love” — a lot of screenwriters have taken a swipe at it.
The Spanish rom-com “Loco por ella,” aka “Crazy About Her,” is a generally harmless addition to the genre, a movie that sticks to the formula that’s developed around such screen romances.
You can be silly, so long as you remember to include the sad, which means these are by definition “dramedies.” You can’t imply that “All she/he really needs is someone whose love is empathetic and true.” And you can’t sell out with a conventional ending. “Happily ever after” always comes with a fiat, and I’m not talking about the diminutive Italian car.
First, we get a “meet cute.” He’s at a bar with friends, bloviating an how his work at a “clickbait” magazine website has made him an expert on picking up women. She blows in on a motorcycle, a leather-jacketed bad decision if ever there was one.
She takes the initiative, the fake “Oh, I spilled your drink! (in Spanish with English subtitles).” She ups the cynicism ante by asking “What always ruins a perfect (one) night (stand)? The next day.”
No names. No numbers. No small talk. Let’s just…GO. But the guy we later learn is named Adri (Álvaro Cervantes) needs to “RUN.” Because Carla (Susan Abaitua), as we figure she’s called, just stole a helmet for him to wear on her next motorcycle Ride of the Valkyries.
Let’s crash a wedding reception. Let’s pretend we’re relatives. Let’s double down when we stomp in and realize we’ve crashed an Afro-Spanish wedding by offering a toast to the two strangers, dancing and drinking their champagne and stealing their honeymoon suite for a vigorous romp.
“Memorable?” Sure. And then Carla-no-last-name races off into the night, never to be seen again.
Except cynical, never-been-in-love Adri is smitten. Once he figures out who she is, he figures out where she is. But when he visits Los Sauces, he realizes it’s a mental hospital. She’s beyond his reach. That must have been some one-night-stand, because to Adri, those locked doors are “Challenge ACCEPTED” material.
If he wants to get close again, he’ll have to fake his way into a voluntary admission. Maybe pitch it as an undercover story for the mag, after the fact. It’s just that Adri never considers the possibility that sometime escapee Carla might not want to see him again.
Catolonian director Dani de la Orden (“Barcelona Summer Night,” “Barcelona Christmas Night,” “The Best Summer of My Life”) and the screenwriters put a lot of effort into not stepping on anything explosive in this minefield romance they’re navigating through.
That they mostly manage. But the supporting cast of “inmates” is a seriously generic collection of the manic (like Carla), Tourette’s, amnesia and delusional “types.” Only Adri’s new roommate, the paranoid Saúl (Luis Zahera) makes any impact, and even he is rather blandly-written.
Adri’s journey, from self-absorbed to in-love and self-sacrificing, isn’t presented as any great dramatic transformation.
Abaitua, of “Compulsión” and the cute (ish) “4L” has the most interesting role to play, as these stories are inevitably about “the troubled girl.” But the film loses track of her too often after the antics of their “meet cute.” We appreciate the mental issues Carla is having, but there’s too little between that first hot night together and her warming to Adri’s charms. And nothing in the second or third act has the spark and sparkle of those first scenes.
Adri’s interest is driven by…the fact that he’s locked in and can’t get out and has nothing better to do?
“Crazy About Her” isn’t terrible or irresponsible, and the filmmakers do their darnedest to make the unoriginal, medicated rom-com take on “life inside a mental hospital” easy to sit through.
But the “fun” grows thin and the romance never really clicks.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, sex, profanity
Cast: Álvaro Cervantes, Susana Abaitua, Luis Zahera, Aixa Villagrán, Txell Aixendri and Paula Malia
Credits: Directed by Dani de la Orden script by Natalia Durán, Eric Navarro. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:42