Arinze Kene, Billy Brooks, Camille Hatcher, Celia Imrie, Celine Dion, comedy, drama, Jim Strouse, Love Again, Lydia West, New York City, Omid Djalili, Priyanka Chopra, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, reviews, Russell Tovey, Sam Heughan, Sofia Barclay, Steve Oram
May 4, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Jim Strouse
Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in New York City, the comedy/drama film “Love Again” (based on the novel “Text for You”) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Asians and African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Two years after her fiancé died in a tragic car accident, a children’s book illustrator sends lovelorn text messages to his old phone number, which is now being used as a work phone number by a music journalist, who begins dating her, but he doesn’t tell her that he’s the one who’s been getting her text messages.
Culture Audience: “Love Again” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and fans of the book on which the movie is based, but most viewers with enough life experience will be turned off and bored by this predictable and lackluster love story.
The painfully unfunny, boring and very outdated “Love Again” is a fake-looking romantic comedy/drama that also wants to be a Céline Dion commercial. The romance looks forced and unnatural. Everything is an embarrassment for everyone who made this junk. This movie is so dull and lacking in charisma, it makes anything on the Hallmark Channel (which churns out generic romance movies on a regular basis) look exciting in comparison.
Written and directed by Jim Strouse, “Love Again” is based on Sofie Cramer’s 2022 novel “Text for You.” There isn’t one single thing in this dreadful movie that is clever or surprising. In fact, it’s downright insulting to viewers that the “Love Again” filmmakers expect viewers to think that the mindless tripe that comes out of the central couple’s mouths is supposed to be “witty and charming” dialogue, when it’s the exact opposite.
“Love Again” (which takes place mostly in New York City) begins by showing children’s book illustrator Mira Ray (played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas) meeting up with her 34-year-old fiancé John Wright (played by Arinzé Kene) for a lunch date at a local café. John’s occupation is not mentioned in the movie. Mira and John exchange some lovey-dovey talk and make plans to meet up later.
Less than a minute after John waves goodbye to Mira while he’s walking on a sidewalk near the café, Mira hears the horrific sound of a car crash. As soon as you hear the crash and see Mira’s alarmed reaction, you just know that John was hit by a car. It’s later revealed that John was killed by a drunk driver at that moment.
The movie then fast-forwards to two years later. Mira has moved back home with her parents, who live in an unnamed city and state. Wherever they live, it’s within driving distance of New York City. Mira has taken a leave of absence from her job. The movie implies that Mira hasn’t been doing much with her life but moping around the house because of her grief over John’s death.
Mira’s perky younger sister Suzy Ray (played by Sofia Barclay), who was Mira’s roommate in New York City, has been leaving voice messages for Mira and begging her to move back to New York City so they can live together again. Suzy’s messages express concern, then frustration, and then anger. “Mom and Dad want their house back!” Suzy snaps in a message to Mira. After getting this message, Mira finally decides she’s going to move back to New York City and try to move on with her life without John.
At Mira’s job, her boss Gina Valentine (played by Celia Imrie) scolds Mira for drawing depressing illustrations when Mira is supposed to be drawing cheerful illustrations. Gina calls an intern named Molly (played by Camille Hatcher) into Gina’s office and tells Mira that Molly is a student on a scholarship at New York University and was raised by a single mother. Gina says to Mira about Molly, “She’ll lose your job if you don’t figure this out.” That type of unamusing line is what this movie is trying to pass off as “comedy.”
Meanwhile, at the fictional newspaper the New York Chronicle, music journalist/critic Rob Burns (played by Sam Heughan), a 35-year-old British immigrant, wants to start a podcast for the newspaper. However, his boss Richard Hughes (played by Steve Oram), who’s also British, wants Rob’s top priority to be for Rob to get an amazing interview with superstar pop singer Céline Dion. Richard says the newspaper is interested because she’s doing a comeback tour, and young people are discovering her music.
It just so happens that Rob, just like Mira, has a broken heart too. His fiancée Elizabeth, nicknamed Liz, dumped him a week before their planned wedding. The movie is vague about who Liz is, but she’s some kind of celebrity, so the breakup was all over the media. A humiliated Rob has become bitter and says he doesn’t believe in love. Of course, we all know he’s going to change his mind when he meets Mira.
At his job, Rob gets a new cell phone from the company. He’s told that he has to use this phone for work-related purposes. Rob’s gossipy and nosy co-worker Billy Brooks (played by Russell Tovey) warns Rob that this cell phone is probably just a way for their boss to spy on Rob. Rob has another co-worker named Lisa Scott (played by Lydia West), whom he’s somewhat attracted to, but she sees him more like an older brother.
One night, Mira is feeling lonely, so she texts some lovelorn “I miss you” messages to the phone number that John used to have. And guess who has this phone number now? Rob, who is surprised to get these messages from a stranger. He answers anyway, as someone who is confused but sympathetic about why she has contacted him.
On this particular night when Mira sends her first text message to the number that Rob now has, there’s a thunderstorm that knocks out the electricity at the same time in Mira’s apartment and Rob’s apartment. This movie is so corny, the only reason why this power outage happens is to make it more obvious that the phone is lit up with text messages in the dark. Rob doesn’t do what sensible people would do: Tell this stranger to stop texting him and/or block her number, because there would be no “Love Again” movie if the would-be couple and the filmmakers acted sensibly.
And so begins the tedious silliness of “Love Again,” which already reveals in the movie’s trailer that Mira and Rob start having an “emotional connection” online, but it takes a while for them to meet in person. However, it doesn’t take long for Mira to begin “sexting” her online “lover,” by saying things such as she wants to see him naked. Mira sends a barrage of texts that, by any standard, make her look unhinged. The movie tries too hard to convince viewers that Mira’s texts, which cross the line into harassment of a stranger, are all perfectly normal and acceptable, when they’re not.
When Rob and Mira meet in person and begin dating, Rob doesn’t take Lisa’s advice to tell Mira that he’s the person she’s been confiding in through text messages. We all know where this deception is going in the rom-com formula of “Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy finds a way to win back the girl.”
As for singer Dion (who portrays herself in the movie), even though she shares top billing for “Love Again,” she’s only in about 25% of the movie. And now that it’s been revealed that Dion wasn’t actually in the same room when she filmed scenes with her “Love Again” co-stars, it’s yet another reason why this movie looks so phony. Dion’s scenes (which range from bland to awkward) in “Love Again” are mostly cringeworthy, to put it mildly.
For starters, “Love Again” fails to make Dion look charming. In fact, she’s downright rude and inappropriate in many of her character interactions in this movie. At a press conference attended by Rob, she lectures Rob by telling him that he doesn’t know anything about love, just because he asked her about some of her romance-related song lyrics.
To be fair, Rob isn’t exactly courteous either, since he’s openly cynical about Dion’s music at first. She also gets annoyed when he looks at text messages on his phone while she’s answering his question at the press conference. “Love Again” takes a sharp turn into ridiculousness when Rob later does a one-on-one interview with Dion that turns into a therapy session where she tells him what he should be doing in his romance with Mira. Dion also reminisces about her own romance with her deceased husband/manager, René Angélil.
The dialogue in “Love Again” is simply horrendous and full of hokey clichés. There’s a scene where Rob tries to hint to Mira that he’s the one she’s been texting. Rob asks Mira, “Do you think it’s possible to fall in love with someone through their words?” Mira replies, “You know what they say: ‘Actions speak louder than words.'”
Mira has a quirk of asking people “would you rather” questions that make her look shallow and ditzy, because she says she judges people based on their answers to these hypothetical questions. One of these questions is “Would you rather have 10 cats or would you rather have one parrot on your shoulder for 22 hours a day?” (Mira thinks the only “correct” answer is to choose the parrot.) Another question is “Would you rather live your life with silent, uncontrollable gas or loud, uncontrollable sneezing?”
Who over the age of 12 talks like that? And who wants to date an adult who talks like that? Mira also doesn’t like it if anyone answers “neither” to her “would you rather” questions. She expects people to answer her questions as if she’s a prosecutor interrogating someone on a witness stand. Apparently, “Love Again” wants to convince people that this annoying trait of Mira’s is endearing.
As for Rob, he’s no prize either when it comes to his personality. Aside from his job and his monotonous romance with Mira, the most that the movie reveals about Rob is that he likes basketball and that he (just like Mira) is a terrible cook. There are some “red flags” about Rob’s life that would be noticed by someone who “falls in love” with him, if this movie tried to be realistic. For example, Rob never talks about his family, which remains a mystery throughout the story. Rob, like Mira, also doesn’t have any close friends.
Seriously, if the only people you can talk to about your love life are two co-worker acquaintances and a celebrity who’s really a stranger, then you’ve got bigger problems than how to court a love interest. But apparently, the “Love Again” filmmakers want viewers to ignore all of that and make Rob look like he’s a “great catch” as a bachelor. Yes, he’s physically good-looking, but a lot of his personality is quite monotonous and drippy.
Needless to say, Chopra Jonas and Heughan do not have believable chemistry together as an on-screen couple. The movie has some stunt casting with Nick Jonas (who married Chopra Jonas in 2018) in a not-funny-at-all cameo. Jonas portrays an idiotic and vain fitness trainer named Joel, who goes on one bad date with Mira before Mira meets Rob. This bad date happens to take place in the same restaurant and at the same time when Rob thinks he’ll meet Mira due to some miscommunication by text. It’s all just stilted acting and more contrived nonsense on display.
The supporting characters in “Love Again” are mostly hollow and terribly underdeveloped. Mira and Suzy like to hang out at a diner called Roxy’s, which is owned and managed by a widower named Mohsen, nicknamed Mo (played by Omid Djalili), who named the diner after his wife. Mo’s only purpose in the brief time that he’s on screen is to show that Mira actually talks to someone else besides Suzy about Mira’s love life.
“Love Again” tries to look “classy” with references to the opera “Orpheus and Eurydice,” which was part of the love story of Mira and John. The way “Orpheus and Eurydice” is used in the movie is supposed to look intellectually deep and emotionally moving. But it’s all such a pretentious façade in a low-quality movie, because the only music that “Love Again” really cares about promoting is Dion’s music. Various people, including Dion, sing some of her original hits and cover tunes throughout the movie.
During the end credits, the “Love Again” principal cast members are shown doing individual karaoke-styled singing of Dion’s music as part of this non-stop shillfest. Various scenes in “Love Again” also have obnoxious and blatant product placement—particularly of a candy brand that won’t be mentioned in this review, because this candy brand, just like Dion’s music, gets enough hawking in the movie. “Love Again” is such an abomination in a world filled with cheesy movies about unrealistic-looking romances, the title of the movie should be changed to “Never Again” to describe how people with good taste will feel about watching this creatively bankrupt flop more than once.
Screen Gems will release “Love Again” in U.S. cinemas on May 5, 2023.