Noah (Scott Eastwood) and Emma (Slate) have been together for 18 months. She’s comfortable and content. He’s an A-Type on the hunt for the next thing in life, who happens to appear in the form of Ginny (Clark Backo), the statuesque owner of a local pie shop.
Peter (Day) and Anne (Gina Rodriguez) are six years in when she blindsides him. He’s too complacent, she says as she dumps him. She wants a bigger life, one filled with excitement and she thinks she’ll find that with local theatre director Logan (Manny Jacinto).
Emma and Peter are dumped and devastated.
This is a rom com, so it is inevitable that the grieving Emma and Peter will meet cute. Turns out, they work in the same office tower and spend time in the same stairwell, crying and longing for their exes. When they finally meet, she is smeared with mascara, he has the toilet paper he used to wipe away his tears stuck to his face. They respond to each other’s pain and begin a platonic friendship.
They sing “You Oughta Know” at karaoke, get drunk and attempt to make one another feel better. “Dying alone is not so bad,” Emma says. “Having someone to watch you die is embarrassing.” They go to the movies, have lunch, lurk on their exes’ Instagram and hatch a plan. Emma will infiltrate Anne and Logan’s relationship as Peter makes friends with Noah and Ginny, both trying to drive a wedge in the new relationships. “They might not know they should be with us,” Emma says, “with all these new shiny people around.”
“It’s like ‘Cruel Intentions,” Peter says, “but sexier.”
“How is it sexier?”
The chemistry Slate and Day share, as actors and characters, (NOT A SPOILER, JUST THE WAY ROM COMS WORK) make it clear who should be partnered with who by the time the end credits roll. This is, after all, a rom com so the outcome isn’t a secret. It’s all about the journey, how the two most likeable characters in the movie will finally find their happily ever after. “I Want You Back” offers up a fun journey that travels ground most rom coms have voyaged before, but does so with laughs and heart.
There are hijinks and farce—a proposed three-way tryst, a very uncomfortable hiding spot and unrequited love—but the clichés of Katherine Heigl-style rom coms are blunted with edgy humor topped off with a helping of romance. The movie allows Slate and Day to bring their unique comic gifts to the material while keeping it on the rom com straight and narrow.
“I Want You Back” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the eager cast keeps the predictable parts of the story interesting and very funny.