Producer: David Gross Director: Natalie Krinsky Screenplay: Natalie Krinsky Cast: Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Bernadette Peters, Arturo Castro, Suki Waterhouse, Megan Ferguson, Sheila McCarthy, Nathan Dales, Ego Nwodim and Tattiawna Jones Distributor: Sony Entertainment/TriStar Pictures
If there’s a playbook for rom-coms, Natalie Krinsky, a television writer making her first feature film, must have memorized it. “The Broken Hearts Gallery” has the usual ingredients in profusion—an adorable couple, each with a dream, who meet cute and overcome a variety of obstacles in their march to true romance; sitcomishly funny friends for both of them; periodic moments of melancholy, as well as plenty of whimsy; a few nogoodniks to cause trouble; a ton of musical montages; and, of course, a big finale, complete with one of the leads running to deliver a message of love to the other after they’ve split. The whole thing is colorfully packaged in a brightly colored production design (Zazu Myers), glossy cinematography (Alar Kivilo) and a bouncy score (Genevieve Vincent). If you go for this sort of thing, it might well make you squeal with delight; if not, it will probably cause stomach upset.
The set-up has high schooler Lucy Gulliver (Geraldine Viswanathan, the dedicated student journalist from “Bad Education”) explaining to her two BFFs Amanda (Molly Gordon) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo) why she keeps souvenirs of failed relationships—a “broken hearts box,” as it were. Eight years later, the three are still rooming together in New York City, along with law student Amanda’s goofy, mute boyfriend Jeff (Nathan Dales). Lucy has fallen for Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar), her co-worker at the art gallery run by imperious, bitchy Eva Woolf (Bernadette Peters, doing a “The Devil Wears Prada” routine, pretty well). She thinks they’re soul mates, though another co-worker, cynical Harvard (Ego Nwodim), warns her she’s expecting too much.
It turns out that Harvard is right. Max shows up at a gallery affair with a pretty doctor (Tattiawna Jones), and Lucy flubs a big speech, losing both him and her job. Thinking his car is the Lyft she ordered, she jumps distraught into the Prius driven by bewildered Nick (Dacre Montgomery) and gives him her address. He gamely drops her off at home and she goes into the predictable depression.
Later, purely by one of those coincidences one expects in these movies, Nick saves Lucy from an embarrassing decision to confront Nick in a restaurant, and then takes her to his place—a deserted YMCA that he’s in process of turning into a boutique hotel with the help of his pal, jocular Marcos (Arturo Castro). As they talk, she gets the idea of using a bulletin board there to tack up the tie she’s kept as a memento of Max, with a note explaining its significance, and when she returns to offer he help with the remodeling, finds that others have used it to post their own “broken hearts” memorabilia. That gives her the idea of starting her gallery at Nick’s still-disheveled place, and of course it takes off as a central location for people to deposit their remembrances of love gone wrong, bringing them a degree of emotional comfort by sharing.
From here, of course, the relationship between Lucy and Nick blossoms despite speed bumps along the way—at one point Max shows up to ask Lucy for another chance, at another Nick’s onetime flame Chloe (Suki Waterhouse) shows up (particularly irksome, since he’d told Lucy he intended to name his place Hotel Chloe). There’s also a maudlin visit to Lucy’s mother Cheryl (Sheila McCarthy) in a nursing home, and a scene in which an aggressive woman on the street misconstrues a moment between Lucy and Nick and comes to her rescue. And Nick’s application for loans to complete his renovations hangs in limbo.
The movie has its good points. Krinsky is clearly at home with today’s edgy vocabulary, and pens plenty of witty lines with a contemporary twist. And while Viswanathan often pushes too hard, coming across as frantic (by comparison Montgomery seems rather bland), the talented supporting cast almost invariably strikes the right tone.
So for those looking for a modernist bit of formulaic rom-com fluff, this will fill the bill. (It would be perfect for a girls’ night out, if such things were permissible in these pandemic times.) But for many–men in particular, one suspects–it will be just another disposable “chick flick.”