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March 14, 2015

Save the Date

by Franz Patrick


Save the Date (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) and Kevin (Geoffrey Arend) are moving in together. What Kevin doesn’t know is that Sarah, a bookstore manager, feels uneasy about it, mostly because her romantic relationships have never been this serious. What Sarah doesn’t know is that Kevin, a lead singer in a rock band, is going to propose to her before the end of his next gig. When he does, Sarah declines the offer and they break up. Meanwhile, Beth (Alison Brie), Sarah’s sister who is more traditional and seems to have everything together, feels the pressure of planning her wedding to Andrew (Martin Starr), Kevin’s friend and fellow band member.

Although shallow and annoying during its first act, so forceful with its so-called relationship troubles, “Save the Date,” directed by Michael Mohan, gets better as it goes along. When it is willing to touch upon the sadness, insecurities, and disappointments in each of its central characters’ lives, the cuteness and pockets of happiness feel like strips of reality instead of functioning as appendages of a formulaic romantic comedy-drama.

One of the screenplay’s main problems is that it is too willing to shortchange Kevin, the eventual ex-boyfriend. There must be at least a few reasons why Sarah wanted to be with him prior to them moving in together but we do not get a chance to learn or understand these reasons before or after the relationship is over. Instead, Kevin is too easily portrayed as a loser, so typical in that after the break-up, he is unable to get over Sarah so he drinks alcohol, mopes about indoors, and writes a song about her.

Because we do not know Kevin as a whole person, Beth’s insistence that Sarah remains to be with him and go against her intuition makes her look like a bad sister. During the key early scenes, my evaluation of Kevin is that he is desperate and a bit of a loser. Initially, I had suspected that it is Beth’s intention to sabotage. It is an interesting possibility and a big risk, but it also inconsistent tonally. So there is only one other possibility: the screenplay does not intend Kevin to come off unlikable but he does because he is underwritten. There are too many assumptions that we are asked to make thereby making room for unnecessary confusion.

When Jonathan (Mark Webber) enters Sarah’s life, he proves to be the perfect medicine for her gnawing thoughts that maybe something is wrong with her for not being able to commit and being deathly afraid of marriage. However, like any medicine that is used so consistently, Jonathan’s novelty wears off somewhat and eventually there is enough room for Sarah to start doubting again. I liked that Jonathan and Kevin do not meet at some point in the middle and eventually feel the need to compete for the girl. Instead, the focus remains on the woman who is not convinced that she deserves a little bit of happiness that is long-term and continually rewarding.

The relationship between the sisters requires more attention and depth. While they do share about three key conversations about what it means to be in a romantic relationship, the changes in their relationship as sisters are not believable enough. This is because we do not get to know them as people who are not tethered to matters of the heart. It can be quite insulting in some ways because being with a man is always either the topic or the glue of their conversations. And then there is Isabelle (Melonie Diaz), a gallery owner and Beth’s friend. Diaz gives her character a scent of intrigue so she outshines everyone she shares a frame with. Isabelle seems to be an independent, strong-willed woman. I want know more about her.

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