If you frequently indulge in a cheesy romantic comedy, you’re probably familiar with the genre’s almost inescapable tropes. Of course, the best members of this category defy formulaic plotlines and off-the-nose characterization. Film fanatics seeking such a rom-com should consult giants like “You’ve Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally” or “Julie and Julia.” Practically anything created by Nora Ephron will suffice. But, if you want to treat yourself to some cliché mind candy, look no further than “Falling Inn Love.”
“Falling Inn Love” follows Gabriela Diaz, a high-powered San Francisco executive intent on designing eco-friendly homes. The quirky professional (portrayed by Christina Milian) boldly embraces difficulty. Day after day, she pitches brilliant plans to her frat boy-esque boss, only to meet defeat. Diaz, to cope with all this rejection, performs an insane number of self-care rituals. She takes virtual bike rides through scenic countryside, religiously attends yoga classes and opts for “comfort carbs” at the end of a long week.
Immediately, “Falling Inn Love” introduces a stereotypical protagonist, but employs a charm that redeems its predictability. Diaz romps around the gorgeous city in standard rom-com fashion, buys a coffee from her favorite spot and marches into work ready to conquer the world. She’s ambitious, intelligent and friendly, but isn’t above eating an entire box of donuts when in distress.
Soon, audiences see that her distress extends beyond the workplace. Simultaneously, the movie introduces another hallmark of the rom-com genre: the crappy boyfriend. Diaz’s significant other, known only as “Dean” throughout the entire story, epitomizes every woman’s worst nightmare. After two and a half years of dating, Dean is flippantly averse to commitment. Even worse, he tries to control Diaz’s eating habits and physically smacks her hand away from a breadbasket at one point.
The heroine, in the face of such distressing behavior, seeks out the insight of another typical rom-com character: the quirky best friend. Sassy, understanding and full of questionable advice, this girl is the Thelma to our heroine’s Louise. She ends every sentence with an emphatic “girl,” and is obviously a fountain of wisdom. Her advice? Deliver an ultimatum. In other words, demand “a rock or you walk.”
Initially, Diaz rejects her rhyme-loving friend’s advice. However, after losing her job, she decides to present the ultimatum to Dean. Predictably, he walks away from their relationship, and Diaz copes by crying on the couch in cute pajamas. White wine in hand, she enters an online “Win an Inn” contest and soon passes out in a drunken stupor.
When she awakes, the unimaginable has happened: Our heroine won the inn. Ecstatic, Diaz sets off to claim her prize in the picturesque countryside of New Zealand. During her trip, she meets Jake Taylor, the local contractor and dreamboat. In typical rom-com fashion, Diaz and Taylor dislike each other at first. The source of this hatred is inexplicable, but apparently necessary to fulfill the genre’s precedent for love-hate relationships.
Taylor, the primary love interest in “Falling Inn Love,” meets every qualification necessary to serve as a typical rom-com hunk. Snarky, intelligent and angst-ridden, the contractor exemplifies the genre’s penchant for the thinly disguised Prince Charming. After a foreseeable “meet cute,” he agrees to help Diaz fix up her inn for a 50/50 split of the profit. Together, they attempt to turn the dilapidated bed and breakfast into an attractive tourist destination.
Along the way, some fundamental differences complicate the refurbishment job. As a hip city girl, Diaz wants to modernize all the inn’s features and replace its rustic vibe with a cutting-edge look. However, her partner refuses to throw away past mementos and sees potential for beauty in the inn’s older attributes.
Their varying perspectives also spark disagreements. Initially, Diaz sees Taylor as an uncultivated country boy, incapable of conceptualizing life in a big city. On the other hand, the object of her scrutiny dubs Diaz a clueless fashionista. Clearly, a classic “love-hate relationship” is in the works, even if the reason for this animosity is a bit obscure.
As you can imagine, the pair slowly grows closer and learn to ignore their seemingly irreconcilable differences. Along the way, more staple characters of the rom-com genre surface and add to the movie’s unashamedly formulaic vibe. A pernicious woman plots against the heroine and masquerades as someone else to sabotage her happiness. Friendly townsfolk encourage Diaz to persevere, and communicate their love by invading her personal space — you know, the way cute country bumpkins consistently behave.
Miscommunication, rather than a substantive issue, threatens Diaz’s newfound romantic relationship. Eventually, she grapples with a choice between the city and country, leaving audiences to wonder which path Diaz will choose. Will she return to a high-stakes career in San Francisco, or trade the lucrative position for a quaint New Zealand life?
At first glance, some people might find the predictability of “Falling Inn Love” off-putting. After all, shouldn’t well-made movies challenge widespread preconceptions? Don’t enjoyable movies reject typical plotlines and character arcs?
Overwhelmingly, reviews of “Falling Inn Love” communicate a keen, down-to-earth insight. Viewers, after placing this sappy story within its proper context, begrudgingly relinquish accolades. As one gracious spectator writes, “Predictable, sweet and filled with so many plot holes you’re forced to laugh, ‘Falling Inn Love’ is unapologetically formulaic in every way.”
Critics understand that scrutinizing a purposefully silly movie like a masterpiece is tactless. After all, you don’t approach a candy bar with the same expectations you bring to a full course meal. Similarly, “Falling Inn Love” isn’t meant to bestow life-changing revelations or mind-bending twists. It’s mind candy and certainly doesn’t demand effort to intellectually digest.
Despite its unchallenging content, movies like “Falling Inn Love” can serve an important purpose. After a long day of studying, invite your roommates to a mind-candy marathon. You could watch the newest pseudo-intellectual masterpiece, but no one wants to eat kale all the time. So, poke fun at predictability, and enjoy the sweet and sappy terms of Diaz’s world.