“Squared Love” is a vapid little “Around the World with Netflix” bauble from Poland, a romance about a teacher whose side hustle is modeling.
By day, Monika is a doting Polish elementary school teacher, an innovator beloved by her kids and envied by her colleagues. But early every morning, Miss Monika (Adrianna Chlebicka) becomes curled, blue contact-lensed Klaudia, a mysterious model who can only work before 9. She’s gorgeous enough that her manager and client put up with her peculiar work demands.
The reason for the secret is that no school would tolerate a teacher “showing my ass” on billboards and magazine ads, according to the movie, anyway. And Monika’s got an even bigger secret. Her recently-widowed mechanic dad (Miroslaw Baka) is in hock to loan sharks. She needs this side hustle to save him, and he has no idea. He just laments the fact that she isn’t married, in love or even dating.
“Real love is always squared,” he tells her, as if she has any time for that.
Enter Enzo (Mateusz Banasiuk), a handsome, extremely shallow engineer whose real name is Stefan, who started modeling because he’s so pretty and he adores the client cars (Audis, Porsches, Camaros) he gets to borrow to pick up chicks.
Not that his boss/live-in lover (Agnieszka Zulewska) approves.
His “Being a heartbreaker isn’t a full time job for me,” (in Polish with subtitles, or dubbed into into English) doesn’t let him off the hook.
One day Enzo picks up Monika dolled up for a shoot, mistaking her for a streetwalker. She mistakes him for a “whoremonger.” Once they get past that misunderstanding, can “Squared Love” be far behind?
This Polish comedy piles up seriously weird complications as obstacles to true love, starting with the whole loan shark business, edging into a teacher afraid of losing her much more lucrative gig as a model if anybody finds out, topped by the way the “childish” engineer/womanizer/model is taught to grow up.
The moment his jealous girlfriend/meal-ticket kicks him out, Enzo’s brother’s wife flees her family, for no reason the movie can actually explain. Enzo finds himself moving in with that brother and forced to be a nanny to young Ania (Helena Mazur), who — you guessed it — is Miss Monika’s star pupil.
As illogical as these many complications are, in the film — tilted “Milosc do kwadratu” in Polish — none of them are cute or remotely amusing either.
Yes, models are largely creations of the right clothes, hair, nails, eyelashes and makeup. But come on. Putting on glasses and pulling one’s hair into a ponytail, even the schoolroom shift in setting, should fool no one who meets both Monika and the bombshell Klaudia.
Chlebicka and Banasiuk generate barely enough chemistry to make the whole journey from loathing to love believable. And a moment of “cute,” here and there, is all any of the actors can wring out of this insipid script.
The most interesting element to the film is the offbeat (mostly) American pop song soundtrack — Leah Nobel, The Majority Stays, Duncan Townsend, etc.
Cast: Adrianna Chlebicka, Mateusz Banasiuk, Helena Mazur and Agnieszka Zulewska
Credits: Directed by Filip Zylber, scripted by Wiktor Piatkowski and Marzanna Polit. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:42