Movie Review: Save the Date
Rating: R (brief drug use, sexual content, and language)
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: December 14, 2012
Directed by: Michael Mohan
Stars: 2 out of 5
"Save the Date" is a film that wants to be more than a typical romantic comedy, but writer and director Michael Mohan doesn't seem to know what type of story he wants to tell. Bolstered by good performances from Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie, the film overcomes this flaw with some worthwhile and relatable moments that will delight twenty-something fans of indie dramas.
Lizzy Caplan plays Sarah, an aspiring graphic artist who helps manage a Los Angeles bookstore. She drifts into a live-in relationship with a promising indie musician, but she promptly leaves him once he publicly proposes to her after his band's concert. She then enters into a rebound relationship with a man who has frequented her bookstore and has a crush on her. Sarah's own romantic upheaval is contrasted with her sister's more stable relationship. Beth is engaged and appears to be happy, but she's also oblivious to the worries of her fiancé as the wedding date draws near.
Caplan played a similar character in 2012's "Bachelorette," and she has a proficiency for this type of role. Unfortunately, "Save the Date" is the type of film in which all of the characters tell the audience why Sarah is loved rather than focusing on her actions, which doesn't give Caplan many opportunities to showcase her talent. Caplan and costar Alison Brie, who plays Caplan's sister Beth, have an easy chemistry that shines onscreen. The audience can easily believe that these two are sisters.
While the film focuses on the two women, the three main male characters each play pivotal roles in the plot. Sarah's rebuffed suitor Kevin, played by Geoffrey Arend, seems painfully clueless about the girl he wants to marry. However, Arend's facial expressions encourage viewers to feel bad for him, even when they disagree with his actions. Although Sarah's rebound boyfriend, played by Mark Webber, has fewer scenes to establish his character, he appears to be a nice guy. There is a good scene where both men attend Sarah's art opening and see how they are depicted in her cartoons. Beth's fiancé, played by Martin Starr, gives an excellent performance in a scene in which he confronts Beth about her treatment of Sarah.
Michael Mohan teamed with graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown and Egan Reich to write the script for this film. He has a talent for writing compelling vignettes of indie archetypes. In one interesting scene, Sarah reflects that her disliked dead-end job provides her more happiness than the careers of many of her more professionally-inclined contemporaries. Unfortunately, the film backtracks from this point to give Sarah her first solo show as an artist.
The best scene in the film occurs when Kevin comes onto Sarah after their breakup. It's clear by this point in the film that Sarah is someone who is hesitant to hurt the feelings of others. However, the young woman realizes she is not willing to sacrifice the mental clarity she's gained since leaving Kevin, so she walks away from him. This scene is one of the best moments of character growth in the film. It also gives the audience a better understanding of Sarah's initial reaction to Kevin's proposal.
Despite some outstanding individual scenes, the overarching plot meanders along until it is resolved with traditional second and third acts. The first act, which truly begins with the stereotypical botched proposal, is familiar to any fan of romantic comedies. However, this initial scene is necessary to establish "Save the Date" as a part of the romantic comedy genre. One of the film's shortcomings is the homogeneity of the characters. They act and talk in similar ways and have the same difficulties with selfishness and a lack of self awareness. While this uniformity is less problematic and even understandable for a group of twentysomethings, it also extends to Sarah and Beth's parents. This is a missed opportunity because Sarah's parents could provide a new perspective on many of the film's events.
While the characters may be homogeneous, Mohan has an excellent eye for little-used Los Angeles locations. In fact, Sarah's boyfriend's profession as a marine biologist may have been chosen simply as an excuse to shoot a scene in front of an aquarium. Asking cowriter Jeffrey Brown to provide the sketches for Sarah's solo art show was also a spot-on choice.
"Save the Date" is a film with some charm, even though it falls short of its promise in some areas. The film's trailer seeks to tie the movie to other indie fan favorites such as "Waitress," "Garden State," and "The Kids Are All Right," but this film doesn't have the crowd-pleasing narrative arch of these films. However, devotees of the popular HBO television show "Girls" and indie films are sure to find some moments and characters to love.