Sundance 2012: 'Save the Date' is Not Just Another Romantic Comedy
by Ethan Anderton
January 27, 2012
If there's one thing most romantic comedies can't seem to lock down it's real romance and substantial comedy. However, when it comes to the film festival circuit, plenty of films hit it right on the money. Whether it's (500) Days of Summer or even Garden State, Sundance is the place to find a real love story with heart and comedy. Save the Date easily fits into that category but with an even more grounded, even practical approach to love as a twenty-something. From the pressure of being engaged to the lead-up to a serious relationship, a lot can go wrong when it comes to romance. But thankfully, it can also go right.
Director Michael Mohan (who previously came to Sundance with One Too Many Mornings and the short Ex-Sex) returns to the festival with this genuine, honest story that I wouldn't simply lump into the romantic comedy subgenre. To give it such a label would be disrespectful of the raw emotion on display and the realistic portrayal of two sisters at very different points in their love lives. Alison Brie is in the midst of planning a wedding with her fiance played by Martin Starr while Lizzy Caplan isn't ready for commitment with her boyfriend (Geoffrey Arend), but has no problems getting comfortable with a bookstore patron played by Mark Webber.
The conversations and issues coming from the script penned by Mohan, Jeffrey Brown and Egan Reich are all too familiar for anyone who's had a significant other, and the natural and authentic performances by this young cast make it that much more accessible and emotional. Most romantic comedies have this heightened sense of reality that always feels artificial and scripted whereas this film makes the audience feel like they're watching their best friends struggle with relationship issues. It's smart, witty and Mohan keeps everyone's feet planted firmly on the ground, making some of the heartbreak and speedbumps in these relationships even harder to endure.
Caplan is at the lead of the pack with a spirited turn proving that she has what it takes as a leading lady and making a breakthrough performance. Starr also stands out by not playing the usual awkward guy we've seen in Judd Apatow films like Knocked Up. Webber also shines, easily one of the most genuine male romantic leads to hit the big screen in awhile, mostly because he's not just another pretty face like Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds. Finally, Brie shows she's more than just a sweet girl with great comedic timing by nailing some truly dramatic moments in the midst of her impending nuptials.
Yes, there's romance, and yes, there's comedy. But Save the Date is not your average romantic comedy. There's no happy ending (though that's not to say that there's a sad ending), and this isn't love in a neat little Valentine's Day package. At times this film is brutal, raw, but it's always honest and true to itself. Romantic comedies are for people who wish they could be in fairytale love and want to kiss someone under the movie marquee in the rain. Save the Date is for anyone who can argue with their significant other and then just watch a movie on the couch in sweatpants with their arms around each other minutes later. it's the quintessential representation of real love, real problems, and a group real talented people coming together to deliver a fantastic film that is one of the best of its kind at Sundance this year.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10