One of my tweeps, @JulesLaLaLand asked for my opinion on the new Susanne Biers movie Love Is All You Need so when it came to the local Laemmle, The Boy and I hauled off to see a matinee, pretty much blind. I mean, you got Pierce Brosnan, so what more do you need?
Later she told me it was intended as a romantic-comedy, which was a mild surprise. Although funny, and interesting, it was not really light-hearted enough to identify as part of the genre.
Here’s the premise, which sounds sort of like a Danish “Mamma Mia!”, without the music: Patrick and Astrid are getting married and having a big wedding at the abandoned family home on the sort of gorgeous Italian island that makes you think “Someone wanted to hang out in Italy so they made up this movie.”
Astrid’s brother is going off to war, while Astrid’s mom and dad, Ida and Leif, are, well, let’s say “having a difficult time”. Meanwhile, Patrick’s dad, Philip (Brosnan) is a jerk. His wife died long ago, and he’s buried himself in his work, leaving Patrick to be raised by his execrable sister-in-law, Beneditke.
Right off the bat, you know something is wrong: Patrick isn’t all over Astrid, in the manner of fiancees, e.g. Also, no matter how comical the circumstances, you don’t show infidelity (in a romcom) with any degree of graphicness. Actually, you don’t show sex much at all, lest your romcom turn into a sex farce. (I’m guessing Mamma Mia! didn’t have a bunch of graphic sex scenes between Streep, Brosnan and the other two dudes, but maybe I’m wrong.)
In this case, the lead character of the movie is Ida (played by the lovely Trine Dyrholm, of the director’s previous work, Hævnen), who has just finished up her chemo—maybe this is considered a “light touch” in Denmark—and who ends up running into (literally) Philip, thus setting up the movie’s real intended romance.
Director Susanne Bier, who also directed such thigh slappers as Things We Lost In The Fire and After The Wedding, seems to have taken the “wacky misunderstanding” staple of the genre and interpreted it in a unique way: Almost every single character in the movie, when they speak, is speaking in a completely self-absorbed way, from his or her own perspective, with no concern or regard for others’ points-of-view.
The exceptions become Ida and Philip, which is the only thing that makes the romance aspect of the movie possible or plausible. But even they start out more or less self-absorbed.
Now, this is funny. It’s dark humor, to be sure. Often, in fact, I was the only one laughing. Beneditke (played by the beautiful Paprika Stevens looking absolutely hideous) delivers this wonderful, horrible speech, not about the bride and groom, as you might expect, but to Philip. Except, it’s not even to or about him, it’s about how her sister stole him away, and her own divorce, and so on.
As I said, we enjoyed it. I more than The Boy. Although he did find it hilarious at one point, because of this awful joke he heard somewhere on the Internet:
Q. What kind of cave does a homosexual man live in?
A. A gayve!
It applies here.
It’s an interesting effort, and I can see why critics liked it and why audiences (perhaps, you know, expecting a romantic comedy) might be disappointed.