I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
WHEN WE FIRST MET
For a little bit there, it seemed as though the romantic comedy was a dying breed. Many of the films that Matthew McConaughey did before he revitalized his career served as some of the many obituaries for the genre. But as we look at the cinematic offerings of yesteryear, with titles such as THE BIG SICK and FITS AND STARTS it seems the rom-com still has some life left in it. Perhaps what was taken for death was actually an evolution.
Netflix is riding this current. Its new movie, WHEN WE FIRST MET, releases this weekend for subscribers to stream, an it’s quite a soothing and enjoyable way to spend a date night on the couch. It may not offer the Oscar-quality storytelling as THE BIG SICK, but it gets the job done, makes you laugh and feel good about yourself.
The movie tells a familiar story: A young man named Noah (a very funny Adam Devine) finds his dreamboat in Avery (Alexandra Daddario). The two stumble into each at a Halloween party, share some good laughs and conversations, and decide to continue their fun at a bar where Noah works. Sparks fly and all seems right in the world, when all of a sudden as Noah goes in for a smooch, Avery supplies a friendly hug instead.
Boom! Friend zone.
After we timehop three years down the road, we see Noah at Avery’s engagement party. She’s to be married to Ethan (Robbie Amell), the man of her dreams whom she met the very next day after meeting Noah.
From here, Noah goes back to his bar to drown his sorrows. After knocking back a few drinks, he walks over to the photo booth that he and Avery shared a great moment in, pops in a quarter, wishes he could do that night over and — voila! — the sands of time pick back up and Noah finds himself back to that very day. And like GROUNDHOG DAY, he’s allowed to do the night over until he finds happiness.
This may seem like a tired plot device, because of all the movies out there about a magical object or device that grants some sad mope the ability to correct the course of his or her life. Maybe something like 13 GOING ON 30 and THE CHANGE-UP comes to mind. But, to much surprise, WHEN WE FIRST MET has more class than simply borrowing all its ideas from other material. Some of the twists the filmmakers employ are hilariously clever.
One such moment occurs when Noah alters his path from being a slacker type to a successful businessman. Although he had never studied the language before in his previous timeline, he surprises himself when he has the ability to speak Mandarin to a client. Most movies of this kind capitalize on the fish out of water aspect and use perplexity as tool for making audiences laugh. WHEN WE FIRST MET takes that approach, but it also pushes it further in ways you wouldn’t expect.
How the movie plays with time and its different scenarios elevates it above your average laundry-folding, background noise rom-coms. The chemistry among the actors, charming performances (most notably Shelley Hennig as Avery’s best friend Carrie) and quotable dialogue all contribute to this being a nice pick-me-up viewing experience.
WHEN WE FIRST MET will be available to stream Friday, Feb. 9 on Netflix.
This review is also published on DentonRC.com.