Set It Up is such a fun, enjoyable and funny romantic comedy it probably would have been the biggest box office hit in the genre since The Proposal.
The Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds film proved to be a massive hit with a whopping $163 million domestic haul. Problem is, the romantic comedy genre hasn’t had a hit that big in close to a decade.
That’s why it’s a little surprising that Set It Up wound up on Netflix instead of playing in a theater near you. It’s almost too good to just be settled on after five or 10 minutes of deciding what to watch. This is the kind of romantic comedy some exec should be busy congratulating themselves for backing and producing. Their loss is clearly Netflix’s gain as Set It Up might be the first legitimate breakout hit for the streaming service.
Assistants Harper (Zoey Deutch, The Disaster Artist) and Charlie (Glen Powell, Scream Queens) work for two Type A-squared horrible bosses that would make Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell proud. Kirsten (Lucy Liu) is demanding, dismissive and all around unappreciative of the beleaguered Harper. Rick (Taye Diggs) is a man child capable of temper tantrums and violent outbursts when he doesn’t get his way. And it’s up to Charlie to play mind reader/therapist/gopher.
Charlie and Harper both hope there’s a silver lining at the end of this demeaning journey. For Harper it’s a chance to get her work published in Kirsten’s sports magazine. Charlie wants to be a partner in Rick’s firm. But their bosses are so miserable and so destructive with their words they’re afraid they’ll crack before reaching the promised land.
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The obvious solution is to set Rick and Kirsten up. Best case scenario? Charlie and Harper get a few moments of not being on call 24/7 and wasting their 20s on ungrateful bosses. It takes a nanosecond to get caught up in Deutch and Powell’s chemistry. The beauty of the film is that it’s set up in a manner where Charlie and Harper are so busy pushing their bosses together they’re slowly falling for each other without assistance…or assistants.
Attention, Hollywood execs: it’s time to get in early on the Katie Silberman train. Silberman is going to be an in demand screenwriter that’s going to make some studios a ton of money if her first full length script is any indication.
I loved how fresh Silberman’s script felt. Harper is an aspiring sports journalist. She doesn’t feel like a loser or gets jealous when her best friend gets engaged. It’s Charlie and not Harper who has the gay best friend. Charlie is dating a Latina model (Joan Smalls) and isn’t without options. Duncan (Pete Davidson) is devoid of any of the stereotypical portrayals of a gay man whose sexuality isn’t used for cheap jokes. And Kirsten and Rick aren’t written as a Black man and an Asian woman. It all feels so incredibly progressive and refreshing. Who knew a comedy could get by without resorting to its typical crutches?
Director Claire Scanlon should start bracing for a busier schedule too. After years directing TV shows like Modern Family, Black-ish, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Fresh Off the Boat, Scalon has a terrific sense of comedic timing. How long to let a scene go, when to cut for a different perspective and when to let the jokes flow. Just preferably not in an elevator.
There’s a sweetness here that’s largely been absent in the rare romantic comedies that hit theaters. Deutch and Powell make for a charming pairing and they play off each other exceptionally well.
Diggs and Liu are a lot of fun as the unpredictable, emotional bosses. Even Charlie’s best friend Becca (Meredith Hagner) and her fiance Mike (Jon Rudnitsky) have a very endearing scene. It felt good rooting for the couples as opposed to just watching the inevitable play out. Davidson, Smalls, Hagner and Tituss Burgess provide valuable and welcome supporting roles.
Set It Up should definitely get in the books for anyone who loves a good romantic comedy. It’s the kind of effort that gives Netflix far more credibility as a viable option for quality films to find their audience even without big studio backing.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: KC Bailey/ Netflix