Review by Tatiana Miranda
After his success in The Umbrella Academy, Tom Hopper makes his Netflix feature debut in Love in the Villa starring alongside Kat Graham. Love in the Villa is a Hallmark-type romance set in Verona, Italy. The structure is simple enough: two polar opposite strangers get stuck sharing the same vacation home rental space. Graham's character, Julia, is introduced while reading Romeo and Juliet to her third-grade class, which, although a seemingly inappropriate choice, is at least treated with some humor as she is met with blank stares. For her, this trip to Verona fulfills a lifelong dream and follows a seemingly shocking breakup.
Met with one spell of bad luck after another, Julie discovers that her rental is double-booked and that she must share it with the cynical Charlie, played by Hopper. His motives for his Italy trip are work-related, and unlike Julie, he lacks a sense of romanticism. While the casting is excellent, with Charlie's ex played by Hopper's real-life wife, the chemistry between the two leads is lackluster, and their presentation feels like actors playing characters, which is... not ideal. Because the main characters and the movie's plot are so standard, they interact like caricatures rather than real people.
With the movie's setting in Verona, there are some Italian tropes throughout, as is the case with the character Uberto. This intense yet lovable cab driver spends most of his scenes swerving around roads and feeding Julie and Charlie some of his mother's homemade cannoli. Although it's understandable that the two main characters wouldn't be from Italy, their interactions with locals play into the tourism aspect of the movie, disconnecting the setting from any real romanticism Verona has to offer outside of its notability from Shakespeare.
Although the romantic progression in Love in the Villa is cute enough structurally, the humor scattered throughout is what saves the movie. As the film progresses, Julie and Charlie's relationship has a touch of the enemies-to-lovers trope as they hilariously attempt to sabotage one another out of the villa. Julie's occasional conversations with her friend and colleague Roberto provides a third-party judgment of the movie's stereotypical scenes that tends to lessen any feeling of cringe from the audience.
Even with its horrible CGI and some unfortunate character-driven inconsistencies, Love in the Villa's straightforward romance is done in a way that even a non-cheesy movie fan can appreciate. While the movie is nothing special in terms of rom-coms, it provides some good laughs and cute romantic moments between characters. Plus, the scenic views of Verona and Julie's stylish outfits while on vacation don't hurt to look at either.
Love in the Villa begins streaming on Netflix on September 1.
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