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Valentine’s Day movie guide: We rate 4 Netflix rom-coms

Moira Macdonald – The Seattle Times (TNS)

Valentine’s Day is soon upon us, which means we’re all in need of some cheery Netflix rom-coms in which very attractive and well-dressed people have romantic crises in cute apartments, right? I am but here to serve! While there doesn’t appear to be anything brand-new that fits the bill on the streamer, I watched and rated four newish ones (all from 2023). Wishing you all a happy and perfectly accessorized Valentine’s Day!

“Your Place or Mine”

(Netflix original; 111 minutes)

The premise: Harry and Sally, oops I mean Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) and Peter (Ashton Kutcher), have been platonic best friends for 20 years in that grand rom-com tradition — despite being polar opposites who live on opposite coasts. But when single mom Debbie’s babysitter falls through before her planned trip to New York, Peter offers to fly to Los Angeles to stay with the kid. Worlds collide, secrets are revealed and guess how it ends. Really, just guess.

The setting: We alternate between Debbie’s cozy, cluttered California bungalow and Peter’s sleek, practically empty, ultramodern New York apartment where he keeps a Secret Manuscript in his oven, which seems like a dumb place to hide something if you’re having a houseguest.

The chemistry: Witherspoon and Kutcher are pros at this sort of thing, but they’re hampered by a script that has them on opposite coasts for nearly the entire movie. It’s hard to banter in split-screen, and harder still to make this story (in which Peter magically becomes the world’s greatest dad, and Debbie, for some reason, never removes her one pair of sandals, to the point at which I worried they were permanently fused to her feet) believable.

The other people: “Your Place or Mine” has an intriguingly random assortment of secondary characters, including Tig Notaro, whose role in this movie is to carry takeout coffee around (don’t ask me why; I am but the watcher); Steve Zahn as Debbie’s neighbor/gardener/resident eccentric person who mostly sits around playing guitar in Debbie’s yard; Jesse Williams as an almost comically handsome New York editor; and Zoë Chao as Peter’s bra-top-wearing ex-girlfriend who befriends Debbie, despite the latter’s predilection for denim.

The obligatory callout to a Meg Ryan rom-com: Debbie, like Kathleen in “You’ve Got Mail,” waxes rhapsodic about fresh school supplies.

The life lesson learned: Um, maybe don’t take 20 years to figure out that your best friend is your soulmate?

The rating: 2.5 hearts

Keith Powers, left, as Eric and Gabrielle Union as Jenna in “The Perfect Find.” (Emily Aragones/Netflix/TNS)

“The Perfect Find”

(Netflix original; 99 minutes)

The premise: Forty-ish Jenna (Gabrielle Union) is a New York fashion editor in search of a fresh start after a mysterious career setback. She takes a new job with beauty mogul Darcy (Gina Torres) and her awesomely named publication DarZine, but things are quickly compromised when the cute young photojournalist (Keith Powers) that Jenna kisses at a party turns out to be Darcy’s son, Eric.

The setting: There’s much talk in the film about how Jenna’s career fall (described in frustratingly vague terms) necessitated her move to a “crappy” Brooklyn apartment, but I am here to say that said apartment is seriously adorable, and if that’s what crappy Brooklyn apartments look like, beam me there immediately. The DarZine headquarters, however, resemble an odd cross between a very chic airport lounge and a modern art museum curated by someone very fond of pink.

The chemistry: Union and Powers are quite adorable and find a genuinely sexy groove together, despite the fact that Jenna refers to Eric to her friends as “a fetus.” (Come on, Jenna, he’s not THAT young.)

The other people: Torres is so imperiously good here — when she’s mad, you can almost see the smoke coming out of her ears, but it looks stylish — that I’d happily watch a sequel just called “Darcy.” Jenna also has a lively assortment of extremely elegant friends who pop up throughout, including one who throws a birthday party for her young daughter that’s so chic it has an all-black dress code (even for the kiddos).

The obligatory callout to a Meg Ryan rom-com: Eric is seen sadly and handsomely hauling a Christmas tree down the sidewalk by himself, just as Ryan does in “When Harry Met Sally.”

The life lesson learned: Maybe it’s not a great idea to have sex with your boyfriend AT THE APARTMENT OF YOUR BOSS WHO IS ALSO HIS MOTHER? (Darcy, who gets scarily quiet when she’s furious, is NOT pleased. Nor was I, as I worried about damage to Darcy’s beautiful pink couch.)

The rating: 3.5 hearts

“Love Again”

(Not technically a Netflix original — it’s from Sony Pictures Entertainment — but it’s available on Netflix and if you think I can resist a romantic drama in which Celine Dion gives life lessons, think again; 104 minutes)

The premise: Mira (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) is deeply in love with her boyfriend John (Arinzé Kene), who in the movie’s opening moments brings her a packet of Tropical Skittles (swoon) and then dies immediately in a car accident, tragically leaving her with just her memories and the Skittles. Fast-forward two years, and Mira is sending very sad texts to John’s phone — which are being read by cute British journalist Rob (Sam Heughan), the current owner of that number. You can figure out the rest.

The setting: New York City, in which Mira and Rob have disappointingly non-luxurious (though perfectly nice) apartments. Note, though, that Rob is a music critic for the New York Chronicle, a newspaper whose offices look strangely like the sort of hotel that offers a lobby wine hour.

The chemistry: It’s decent! Both Mira and Rob like opera and putting French fries inside their cheeseburgers, and Chopra Jonas is very good at the rather specific art of executing Sad Yet Loving Glances While Wearing a Cute Hat. Heughan, who I will need to check out on “Outlander,” is likewise quite charming, and manages to sell us on Rob’s adorably dopey plan of finding Mira by going to the opera every night and, um, maybe she’ll be there.

The other people: CELINE DION plays herself in this movie, and yes, that requires all caps, because she actually gets quite a bit of screen time hilariously lecturing Rob (she tells him that he has “the presence of a pair of used underwear,” which is the best burn I have heard in many a year) and telling him that love takes courage. It does! I believe you, Celine! Mira’s heart will go on!

The obligatory callout to a Meg Ryan rom-com: Rob races through the nighttime New York streets in search of Mira, just as Harry does at the end of “When Harry Met Sally.” (Bonus classic rom-com moment: Rob does an excellent lip-sync cover of “All By Myself,” just like Renée Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” but minus the sad pajamas.)

The life lesson learned: When Celine Dion tells you things, listen.

The rating: 3.5 hearts

Ellie Kemper, left, as Helen and Luke Grimes as Jake in “Happiness for Beginners.” (Barbara Nitke/Netflix/TNS)

“Happiness for Beginners”

(Netflix original, 103 minutes)

The premise: Helen (Ellie Kemper), a recent divorcee, signs up for a multiday hiking trip in order to expand her horizons and make a fresh start. Unbeknownst to her, also on the trip is her brother’s handsome best friend Jake (Luke Grimes). Blisters, nature-related catastrophes, uncomfortable-looking camping and true love ensue. (Note, though, that this is the sort of movie fantasy hiking trip in which everyone’s hair looks as good, or better, at the end of the trip than before.)

The setting: Unlike most rom-coms, most of this film takes place in the great outdoors, specifically some 80 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut. The fall colors are lovely, making up (sort of) for this film’s sad lack of cute date outfits.

The chemistry: Helen and Jake, as is required by law in rom-coms, are annoyed with each other for much of the movie, and I could have done without the Poignant Twist added near the end. But Kemper, who has an enchanting way of lighting up as if lit by the sun, and Grimes are sweet together, and you root for these two despite yourself.

The other people: The rest of the hikers are an amusingly ragtag assortment, including a young woman who brought a ukulele along (as if camping wasn’t uncomfortable enough), and an extremely intense hike leader named Beckett who’s always saying terrifying things like, “We pack out at dawn!” (I, a person deeply committed to being indoorsy, may be projecting here.)

The obligatory callout to a Meg Ryan rom-com: Helen adorably sings along with the radio while driving, like Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle.”

The life lessons learned: Avoid walking on potentially hollow logs, deal with blisters as soon as possible, break in your hiking boots before actually hiking and maybe just stay in the city next time.

The rating: 3 hearts

Moire’s guide to Netflix rom-coms

1 heart – Not even worth hate-watching

2 hearts – If there’s nothing else to watch, try this

3 hearts – Watchable, some semblance of plot

4 hearts – Cute, heartwarming

5 hearts – Cult classic


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