A deep bow of respect to the folks who cooked up “Love Tactics ( Ask Taktikleri),” a shiny and somewhat modern Turkish romantic comedy that, via Netflix, might show the world how Turkey itself is somewhat modern and shiny. This is a great idea.
And who, outside of Turkey, has ever seen a Turkish rom-com?
The conceit here was to take a tale from Turkish literature, the romance of Asli and Kerem, and pile every Hollywood romance and rom-com cliche on top of it, just for love and laughs.
Have the characters, naturally a perfect match who are courting each other as a dare/to-prove-a-point (“How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,” “Think Like a Man” etc), joke about the “cliches” of romance and romantic movies. And then have them fall for those cliches, because people (in the movies) always do.
We don’t just see tableside fiddle serenades. We get the full “Ghost” making pottery come-on, “The Ugly Truth” about getting a woman into a hot air balloon.
It’d be hysterical if two of the most gorgeous actors in Turkish TV and cinema, Demet Ozdemir, Sükrü Özyildiz, cracked jokes and pointed out where these ideas came from. Turkish audiences might be (or might not be) as familiar with the romances of Mathew McConaughey and Kate Hudson as the rest of us.
Alas, there aren’t nearly enough jokes to make the “comedy” part of the rom-com truth in advertising. The producers seem intent on getting the same message across as that jarring Super Bowl ad for Turkish Airlines. Turkey is “Westernized,” “secular,” sexy and fun. And if we shove the Turkish flag into the background of more scenes than one can count, maybe foreigners will buy in.
Turkish TV star Ozdemir is Asli, the man-wise/man-wary designer at a seriously sexy clothing company. She also writes a blog, in secret. It’s called “Love Tactics,” and that’s where she shares her “truisms” about men — online, and not just with the just-ghosted colleague who slept with a guy on the first date.
“Men rule the world, women rule men and hormones rule women,” she declares, because feminism hasn’t wholly taken root there. “A woman desires to be loved…A man desires comfort,” and is thus “always looking for the next conquest.”
So let’s play a game. She’ll lure some hapless guy into a trap to prove a point, and drive traffic to her blog.
Kerem (Özyildiz, a veteran of Turkish TV and film, little of it exported) is similarly sure of himself with the opposite sex. A cocky ad-man who wants that clothing firm’s account, he’s sure enough of his ability to not just “pick someone up,” but that he can “make her fall in love with me,” that he, too, will take a dare from his mates (in Turkish with subtitles, or dubbed).
Kemer and Asli plot their schemes, but then coincidences and misunderstandings, “jealousy” and what not complicates their “Never call him/her back right away” “tactics.”
The “cute” stuff never quite gets the job done and the jokes are too few to make an impact, even if the romance kind of clicks in that “They’re so gorgeous they belong together” way.
Looking at their credits, each actor’s been in rom-coms in Turkey before, so while the genre might be “New Girl” level new in that corner of the Islamic world, even Turkish viewers will have other films/shows to compare this to.
It’s not the least bit original, which is no cardinal sin. But without the laughs, “Love Tactics” plays like a travelogue with kissing. Turkey looks posh and affluent and inviting. It’s just that you can’t say the same about these two, and without that there’s no “rooting for them,” the one absolute must in any romantic comedy.
Rating: TV-MA, adult situations, alcohol, sexual discussions
Cast: Demet Ozdemir, Sükrü Özyildiz
Credits: Directed by Emre Kabakusak, scripted by Pelin Karamehmetoglu. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:38