It’s been a pretty strong year for romantic comedies. A number of films have managed to throw in some fun, fresh wrinkles on the genre, which can almost be plotted out via BINGO card. Falling Inn Love doesn’t exactly make over the rom com playbook, but so diligently sticks to the established rules with a charming cast and relaxed premise that it’s worth booking a reservation to check out.
Christina Milian stars as Gabriela Diaz, a business exec who’s life quickly spirals after her big firm goes out of business and she breaks up with her non-committal boyfriend Dean (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman). On a drunken lark, Gabriela enters a web contest to win a New Zealand inn.
Doubtlessly the bottles full of wine she consumed clouded her judgement in missing the obvious scam, but Gabriela wins…until she arrives in New Zealand and sees the shape of the inn. Money pit would be a charitable description as this inn looks about three months past being condemned. Its only inhabitant is a goat, who seemingly posses an uncanny ability to open doors resulting in one of the film’s better running jokes.
Gabriela is game, but she quickly realizes she’s over matched trying to repair the inn. Luckily, the townsfolk are all very welcoming and helpful from everything to plants to hardware supplies.
Screenwriters Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett take the opportunity to have Gabriela focus on environmentally-friendly upgrades seems more like a well-meaning agenda than a useful part of the plot. Just a handful of lines to explain Gabriela’s interest in eco-friendly materials would have made for some useful character development.
All this is just trappings for the real point of the movie of course as the town’s sole age appropriate bachelor, Jake (Adam Demos), is seemingly everywhere offering some advice or to help with the repairs. After awhile, Gabriela finally breaks down her walls and agrees to partner with Jake in restoring the inn. And maybe each other’s broken hearts. Demos has the required heartthrob looks and washboard abs to be the subject of plenty of gifs and memes and he carries the leading man status easily enough.
The last few years have felt like a breakthrough with rom coms led by minority actresses. It’s an encouraging trend, but I’m ready for the next step where the love interest isn’t always played by a white guy. I didn’t fully buy in to the romance here. Milian and Demos have earnest chemistry in the sense that they work so hard to sell the romance, but it never reaches that magic level where you wonder if they hooked up off camera.
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Milian has always seemed like a prime candidate to break out in the rom com genre and with Netflix cornering the market, this could be her time to shine. At a still very youthful looking 37-years-old, Milian could be a fixture of Netflix’s rom com content for the next decade. Just hopefully with better romantic co-stars.
While the romance is lacking, the film benefits from a solid supporting cast. Claire Chitham is fun as nursery owner Shelley. Anna Jullienne was also very entertaining as the prissy rival bed and breakfast owner Charlotte who stirs up some low-level trouble to prompt Gabriela to sell the inn to her. The last act gets needlessly convoluted ironically taking some of the momentum of the expected ending.
Yes, the film actually was shot in New Zealand not some Atlanta sound stage standing in. Director Roger Kumble does a great job in selling the majestic nature of the country with gorgeous greenery, picturesque sunsets and beautiful beaches.
Falling Inn Love doesn’t represent a giant step forward for the romantic comedy genre, but it’s got charming performances and is more than enjoyable enough to watch while cycling through Netflix options.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix