Like the eponymous holiday, Valentine’s Day hates you if you’re single. Being single is the worst thing you can be. It’s not really too surprising that a movie called “Valentine’s Day” wouldn’t have miserable, bitter single people moping around for two hours, but with all the storylines and characters in the film, would one cynic be too much? I didn’t expect Valentine’s Day to warm my cold, dead heart but I also didn’t expect it to call me a sad bitch for two hours. Thankfully, there are one or two worthwhile stories in this bargain-basement tapestry of love fairy tales. But it is uplifting to see a movie fully explore the beauty of gorgeous straight white people finding love in a city as diverse as Los Angeles.
I’m not going to draw a flowchart of how all the characters in this film intersect. I’m not even sure how many separate stories there are but everyone is connected and we all learn that love is many-splendored thing. It’s a good thing that’s one of the least controversial positions of all-time, because if there’s one thing Valentine’s Day hates, it’s controversy, or anything resembling an original idea. There’s one homosexual relationship in the film and it remains closeted until the very end because seeing two gay people in love is totally gross and stuff. There’s also an interracial relationship that, again, doesn’t come together until the film’s almost over. This isn’t me being the PC-police. This is an observation that for a film set in Los Angeles with a cast of 22 characters there’s hardly has any diversity. It kind of undermines the notion that love is universal.
Perhaps those in loving relationships will see this film and enjoy the positive feedback loop of celebrating romance and ignore this disparity, but for the rest of us (and I’m assuming there have to be some other single people that will find their way into this movie), it would be nice if there was at least one character who could poke fun at the expectations and foundations of the holiday. The only character who hates Valentine’s Day is Jessica Biel, but only because she’s always single on this holiday. The film’s explanation for why a woman as hot as Biel would be single on Valentine’s Day: her character is too neurotic. Because as we all know, no man would want to touch a woman who looks like Jessica Biel because she considers herself too neurotic. But she’s not cynical about the holiday as much as she desperately wants to be a part of it. Perhaps that’s true of most single people, but it would be funnier to see someone rip on the traditions rather than whine about how lonely they are.
These flaws wouldn’t be so noticeable if the stories were more engaging. Sadly, this hodgepodge of rom-coms can barely weave short narratives out of clichéd love stories let alone create something new. The most original it gets is having Anne Hathaway struggle to hide her double-life as a phone sex operator from her new boyfriend (Topher Grace). It’s difficult to suspend the disbelief that a woman could do her phone sex business during her temp job or on her cell phone in public, but Hathaway is funny and charming in the role and that’s a cool drink of water in the oasis of familiar. Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher also do good work but they have the biggest narrative in the film so they have the benefit of more time to flesh out their characters.
On the opposite side there’s Taylor Swift where I wish the only screen time she had was maybe as an extra in the distant background. The only credit I can give to her is she shocked me out of my stupor with her complete lack of acting talent. Every stilted line of dialogue she delivers is cringe-worthy and it seems like she wants to talk like a normal person, but her front teeth are busy trying to escape from her skull. Taylor Swift may be able to sing and look shocked when she wins awards, but she should cease any aspirations she may have for an acting career.
The smartest move by Valentine’s Day is that it plays the odds. The idea is to throw as many characters and storylines at a wall and see how many will end up likable. This approach works out to two or three narrative that which comprise abouttwenty minutes of the film. Then there’s the other 105 minutes where the only reprieve is the editing that allows you to jump to another storyline before the current one has you drifting away and dreaming of the day you’ll be lucky enough to meet that special someone who would dislike this movie as much as you.