Starring Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, Anna Paquin, Malin Akerman, Adam Brody, Elijah Wood and Candice Bergen. Directed by Galt Niederhoffer. 95 minutes.Werewolves. Vampires. Shapshifters. Faeries. Since she dyed her hair bleach blonde and adopted that sloppy Southern drawl to play Sookie Stackhouse, it’s hard not to associate Anna Paquin with sexy beasts and the fanboys that follow. But, believe or not, the Oscar winner still hangs with non-mythical folks on occasion. She just doesn’t seem to have as much fun.
In The Romantics, Paquin trade comforts of creatures of the night for creatures of bad habits. And not bad as in performing backwoods voodoo and attending cannibal cocktail hours. Bad as in giving into cold feet and recklessly roaming hands.
We meet the title characters—a group of college friends who have all had flings with each other at least once—at a wedding. Two of the “Romantics”—Lila (Paquin) and Tom (Josh Duhamel)—are tying the knot and while every member of their group pretends to be excited, there’s some way-obvious tension. You see, one of the bridesmaids (Katie Holmes) dated and may still be head-over-heels for the groom. And he may just feel the same way.
The hour and half that follows documents all the night-before-the-wedding drunken awkwardness, where things get sloppy and secrets slip out. It’s all very familiar, from the late-night skinny dips and the meaningless makeouts to the under-the-stars spill sessions and midnight memories. This movie obviously wants to be The Big Chill for the hopeless hipster generation, inspiring event-based epiphanies and random reunions at lake houses to the tune of empty indie pop (The Bird and the Bee’s “Preparedness” is played repeatedly). But really, it’s more like The Big Tease.
The whole movie has that amicable, but not nearly amourous vibe that more recent Sofia Coppola movies have had. There’s a lot of talk but not a lot of follow through. Despite an obvious build-up, the plot doesn’t really go anywhere. And worse, as talented as they individually may be (supporting players include Adam Brody, Malin Akerman and Elijah Wood), there’s just no real sparks between any members of this group. They can kind of pull off being old friends but friends-with-benefits, not so much.
Paquin and Holmes are the only stand-outs of this cast and they play off each other quite well, especially in the anticlimactic climax. But you know they can do better, especially Holmes, who has been her best in an indie environment (Pieces of April, anyone?). By the end, you just want to grab her and Anna by the hand and a hitch the next bus back to Bon Temps. B
EXTRAS: Trailers, Behind-the-scenes featurette