Ideally, in a romantic comedy, you should want the leads to get together at the end of the film. There should be romance. There should be comedy.
We’ll Never Has Paris is occasionally funny.
It is also based on a true story. ‘Unfortunately’ the title card informs us, and that’s certainly true. Written by and starring Simon Helberg (Howard from The Big Bang Theory) and co-directed by his wife Jocelyn Towne, it’s based on their true story, but very much from Helberg’s point of view.
It’s arguably a brave move for them to turn this story into a film, especially because “Quinn” (i.e. Helberg) is so fundamentally unlikeable. He’s a selfish narcissist, prone to bouts of self-pity and righteous anger, and is completely incapable of seeing the perspective of the woman he loves. She even calls him out on it, and his reaction is prostrate pleading.
It’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
Other than catharsis for the people involved, there doesn’t seem to be another reason for this film to exist. Optimistically, it could serve as a critique of male behaviour, but ultimately Devon – Quinn’s girlfriend – does take him back. We don’t know why, however, as Devon is barely developed as a character.
A longer edit, something that shows us Devon’s point-of-view, would be welcome, because Quinn is appalling. He doesn’t learn anything. He’s still the same guy at the end of the film, only he’s apologised a bit. To paraphrase Chris Rock: ‘Sensitive arty male leads in rom-coms are always wanting credit for something they’re supposed to do.’
This film will find its fans, though. Helberg is a big star. There are funny sections, but also attempts to derive comedy from Quinn’s anger towards Devon at his self-inflicted situation. The acting, also, feels oddly synthetic, as if the actors can’t quite muster naturalism. Helberg and Maggie Grace aside, the performances feel somewhat listless.
Furthermore, there are some very odd decisions made with the narrative. Characters commit important, plot-driving acts before we’ve really got to know them. A montage in Paris is simply sloppy filmmaking, as Quinn breaks down having an argument with Devon across a selection of scenic Paris landmarks. They sit on top of cannons. They get ice cream. They sit outside a street-corner cafe. You know. Stuff you do when you’re breaking up.
This is not the main problem with We’ll Never Have Paris, however.
As I left the cinema I overheard an American teenager saying ‘She was such a bitch to him’. It doesn’t matter which woman he’s referring to, none of them deserve that description. If they’re referring to Devon, that means we’re living in a society where women can be called a bitch for telling their cheating, abusive partner that they’re being a dick, and then taking him back when she had good reason not to.
This is the main problem with We’ll Never Have Paris: It feels like an Everyday Sexism hashtag that someone’s added a jazz soundtrack to.
[UK release date to be confirmed]
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