Review by Cole Groth
Of all movie genres, rom-coms have one of the lowest bars for audience enjoyment. Sure, dozens of bad ones are released every year, but if the tried-and-true formula is closely followed, it’s hard not to leave with a smile. About Fate doesn’t reinvent the genre in any way, and it succeeds at being an enjoyable 90-minute film with two strong leads. Emma Roberts and Thomas Mann have some solid chemistry, which makes them ideally suited as the fun, albeit one-dimensional, main characters.
Set in what appears to be a Vivarium-style suburban hell, where every house looks the same, About Fate opens up on Margot (Roberts) and Griffin (Mann), two hopeless romantics going through their routine while preparing to become fiancées. Throughout the creative first act, we see the two live parallel lives, with the movie cutting between the two characters in a way that makes them seem like they’re in a relationship together. The script makes this sequence entertaining, but the editing is too awkward to make it look flawless. The awkwardness of the editing unfortunately highlights the odd look of the film. The lighting is overly smooth, making many scenes look like they’re shot on green screens; the interior driving scenes are also shot in bizarre angles that don’t match up with the keyed-in footage, making it look like the cars are sliding around on the road. The overall look doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the plot, but it eventually becomes very noticeable. What I can praise about the editing, however, is that it keeps the story flowing at a reasonable pace. There’s not too much meat on these bones, but almost no fat. When rom-coms feel the need to drag on during unimportant scenes, it can be a bothersome experience, but any weak scenes within About Fate feel short enough to be written off as a small bump in the road.
As far as the script goes, Tiffany Paulsen’s is pretty good. This one doesn’t try very much new (bar the first act), but she doesn’t take any risks that would jeopardize the expectations of a rom-com. You won’t be laughing out loud very often, but it’s still pretty funny. As I previously mentioned, Margot and Griffin have good chemistry, with Griffin delivering some genuine laughs throughout the two nights this film takes over. In addition to Roberts and Mann’s performances, Britt Robertson, Madelaine Petsch, and Wendie Malick are excellent. Their characters aren’t given much to do, but these three are good rivals and sidekicks for Margot and Griffin. One of the best scenes takes place over a misunderstanding of addresses. Since both Margot and Griffin live at roughly the same address, with a single word separating the two of them, Griffin finds himself drunkenly at his house of Margot. When she eventually gets home, only to notice that much of her house is slightly different (due to Griffin’s nightly routine), she eventually finds him sleeping in her bed. The scene that ensues is hilarious and stuck out to me as one of the funnier scenes in any romantic comedy I’ve seen in a while.
Speaking of that formula, everything you could expect in a film like this happens. Now, is that a problem? Has Hollywood become so bankrupt mentally for so long that we expect a movie to either completely break the formula or follow it? Films like these almost seem cookie-cutter, with only minor variations on the same story. In the sea of movies like this, it’s essential to bring any factor to stand out, and About Fate offers only a moderately interesting premise and two B-list leads. As a fan of rom-coms myself, I’m fine with this. Sure, this would’ve been much better with more twists and turns, but after a long day of nonsense, it’s nice to find a film like this to clear my head. It’s not high art, but it’s at least competent and fun. With so many bad movies in this genre releasing every year, decent films like this are almost noteworthy, but that’s up for the audience to decide.
About Fate will premiere on VOD and in Select Theaters on September 9.