Like most Netflix movies, Set It Up came seemingly out of nowhere. Sure, there was a trailer, a poster, maybe a billboard or two. But it wasn’t exactly Avengers: Infinity War in terms of marketing presence. It wasn’t even Bright.
Unlike most Netflix movies, however, Set It Up is actually catching on. If you’ve been on Twitter over the past few days, you probably saw a bunch of posts like this:
yall netflix put out this movie called “Set It Up” and its the most wholesome and adorable rom com i’ve ever seen please watch it
— scary witch bitch (@astrobalter) June 16, 2018
So what is it about this movie that has everyone swooning over it?
Set It Up is a throwback, in the best way
If you’ve spent the past decade-plus sighing that they just don’t make romcoms like they used to, Set It Up will feel like it was designed to cater specifically to your needs. (And maybe it was.)
Our leads are Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell), exhausted assistants to two demanding hotshots, sports site editor Kirsten (Lucy Liu) and venture capitalist Rick (Taye Diggs).
Set It Up nails the most important element of the romcom formula: chemistry.
The two meet late one night while scrambling to soothe their hangry bosses, and the realization that they’re not alone in their professional misery leads them to hatch a plan: Get the bosses to date, so that, as Harper puts it, “when they’re boning, we’re free!” (NSFW language is one of the ways that Set It Up lets you know it was produced and released in the 2010s, not the 1990s.)
If this scheme sounds totally harebrained, it is. If you’re sensing that Harper and Charlie will find love with each other in the process of finding love for their bosses, congrats, you’ve seen a movie before. Settle in, get cozy, and prepare to tuck into the big steaming bowl of comfort food that is Set It Up.
Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell’s chemistry is [sighs dreamily]
Right off the bat, Set It Up nails the most important element of the romcom formula: chemistry.
This isn’t the first time Deutch and Powell have worked together – they were both in Everybody Wants Some!!, though their characters didn’t share much screentime – and if there’s any justice in the world, it won’t be the last.
She’s bubbly, but with bite; he’s cool when he’s not completely flustered, which is most of the time. Their repartée together is so energetic, it could power a workaholic CEO’s office, or at least the lemon battery science project that Charlie is completing for Rick’s son.
If anything, the problem with these two might be that they’re so perfect together, it’s weird their characters don’t pick up on it sooner.
Then again, that’s part of the fun – the exquisite agony of watching these pretty dum-dums fail to grasp the obvious. Set It Up had me screaming “MAKE OUT ALREADY” at my TV at least twice, which might be the highest praise I can give a romance.
All your favorite romcom tropes are here
On its way to finding true love, Set It Up gleefully hits upon a host of other genre tropes: romantic deceptions straight out of Cyrano de Bergerac (or Parent Trap, if you ask Charlie), quirky BFFs dispensing relationship advice (played by Pete Davidson and Meredith Hagner), last-minute sprints to the airport, and grand declarations of passion.
Unlike They Came Together, Set It Up plays all these tropes straight. At the same time, it’s savvy enough to tweak (most of) them for 2018 sensibilities. So Harper isn’t some tomboyish Cool Girl, but a grown woman who realizes that “guys like girls who like guys who like sports” – and anyway, that’s not what Charlie likes about her.
And it’s creative enough to add a few truly unique flourishes, like a scene-stealing maintenance man played by Tituss Burgess (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). His name is Creepy Tim, which probably tells you all you need to know.
The world of work will feel painfully familiar
The other film Set It Up strongly resembles isn’t a romcom at all. There’s more than a dash of The Devil Wears Prada here, in Rick and Kirsten’s tyrannical treatment of their underlings, as well as Charlie and Harper’s conviction that pampering these mercurial monsters is the best way up the corporate ladder.
Set It Up is as much a story about career as it is about romance.
In fact, Set It Up opens not with a meet-cute, but with a montage of harried assistants suffering their daily humiliations and barking at servers and locksmiths on behalf of their bosses. One imagines those servers and locksmiths barking at their own underlings in turn, in an endless daisy chain of professional misery.
If you’ve ever dealt with a demanding supervisor or an angry customer, you’ll cringe in recognition. It rings so true that it’s easy to gloss over all the little ways that Set It Up gets work wrong, like its hilariously puffed-up notion of what working for a news site is like. (Let me tell you – my boss’ job is pretty sweet, but it’s not that sweet.)
Set It Up is as much a story about two people trying to figure out their careers as it is about two people falling for each other. The dilemmas presented them aren’t about choosing love or work, but about how best to find professional satisfaction. Which, honestly, sounds just about right for a story about ambitious young New Yorkers.
The romcom might just be on the rise again
Ultimately, Set It Up is good, not great. But it reflects a trend that’s downright amazing: the return of the classic romcom.
It’s not that the romcom ever totally went away. But it’s spent the past 15 or so years out of the spotlight. When it would appear, it was often under different guises – bro-tastic raunchfest (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), indie crowdpleaser (The Big Sick), prestige dramedy (Silver Linings Playbook).
Set It Up, on the other hand, unapologetically embraces the genre. And it’s one of several mainstream romcoms coming this year, after Love, Simon and Book Club and before Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Crazy Rich Asians, and Destination Wedding. Netflix’s own summer offerings include Kissing Booth and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
If this summer represents a brief spike in the romcom’s history, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. If it’s the start of a lasting revival, even better.
Either way, I’ll need more movies that put Powell and Deutch up against each other as “unlikely” love interests, please and thank you.
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