As Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) are dumped by their new partners, they make a deal to break up the new romances so they may reunite with their ex-partners.
A break-up romcom in the spirit of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, focusing on the end of romances rather than the commencement.
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As a result, rather of being a laugh-out-loud riot, it’s more gentle and occasionally humorous.
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It’s even a little depressing at spots. The opening half-hour is filled with ugly sobbing and snot-heavy acting as Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) come to terms with their unanticipated single existence.
In the classic rom-com style, an improbable meet-cute occurs, this time on an office stairwell, where our two heroes find solace and camaraderie in each other’s pain, fighting back tears in the wreckage of their splits. A proposal is developed out of this consoling friendship: why don’t they team together to assist each other claw back their individual ex’s adoration?
As a result, the ‘Sadness Sisters’ are formed. It’s a high-concept comedy with a strange connection to Charlie Day‘s previous big-screen excursion, Horrible Bosses, which was all about murdering someone else’s management instead of someone else’s love. But it’s fundamentally a two-hander, with the two actors’ chemistry and charm holding the film together.
Day and Slate have shown comic abilities in the past, but they’re most known for their roles as loud, entertainingly annoying sitcom characters (he in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, she in Parks And Recreation). Their personalities are noticeably more subdued than we’ve seen them before. Day leaps into a hot pool from the first floor of a building in one pivotal scene, but the film appears to be more focused with late-thirties/early-forties malaise than the practicalities of a romance breakup.
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That isn’t to argue that this is a serious, profound essay on relationships in the mold of Noah Baumbach — it’s much lighter and wider. But, despite the zany screwball comedy settings, it’s the characters’ goodwill to one another that stands out as the most unique and odd aspect of the film. These characters show genuine sensitivity (“I miss you so badly my body hurts,” Day’s character says at one point), as well as a serious analysis of what constitutes a successful relationship. The romcom dynamics are still properly maintained — anticipate the very much expected when it comes to who gets together at the end — but they are unexpectedly appealing individuals to spend time with.
I Want You Back is sweeter and more sensitive than you might expect from a broad mainstream romp. It isn’t trying to transform the romcom wheel, and its final bow could be anticipated by anybody with eyes and a brain — but it is fresher and more delicate than you might assume from this kind of broad main stream media romp.