Directed by: Michael Mohan
Premise: A young woman rejects her boyfriend’s wedding proposal and takes up with a new man, only to find that her new relationship might be more than a rebound. At the same time, her sister is immersed in wedding plans.
What Works: Save the Date is part of a recent trend of movies addressing new sexual and relationship mores and it is among the better of these films. The story begins as the main character, played by Lizzy Caplan, moves in with her boyfriend only to run out on him shortly thereafter when he proposes marriage. This scenario neatly encapsulates the conundrum of contemporary romance, in which the order of intimacy has been reversed and even the most basic commitment to other people is overwhelming. This plays out through Lizzy Caplan’s character as she abandons her relationship and dives into another. Caplan’s character is self-absorbed and even capricious but the actress and the filmmakers accomplish something exceptional here: making an otherwise unsympathetic person engaging and even empathetic. This is done by taking the anxieties of Caplan’s character seriously and presenting them credibly in the story. Her abandonment of traditional romantic norms is really about her own happiness but also a reaction to the unhappiness of others. The screenwriters portray contemporary love as a flawed venture in which no one is totally happy. Of course, that is reality and it grants credibility to the main character’s disappointment with life. The relationship between Caplan’s character and her new boyfriend, played by Mark Webber, is sweet and Webber is very good in the role. He is the opposite of his new girlfriend; where she is outwardly sour but inwardly hopeful, he puts on a front of complacence that shields his own insecurity. The new romance is mirrored by the wedding planning of the sister and her fiancé, played by Alison Bree and Martin Starr. The actors are believable as a couple and the challenges that they encounter in their wedding planning parallel the main character’s struggles in love. By the end the filmmakers manage some insight into contemporary relationships and the search for romantic happiness.
What Doesn’t: Although it does not take place in New York City, Save the Date is another entry in what might be described as yuppie cinema, like Friends with Kids, Garden State, and the television show Girls. These films revolve around the lives of white, middle and upper class characters who are self-absorbed, oblivious to their privilege, and whine about their first world problems. At least one of the characters of these stories is always a writer, musician, or a fine artist and so most of the action takes place in independent bookstores and coffee shops and these movies always include an obligatory art gallery scene. Pictures of this sort aren’t necessarily bad but they do tread on obnoxiousness. Save the Date is better than a lot of these films, in part because the characters often feel real and the film possesses a self-awareness of its characters’ superficiality. But viewers who are nauseated by equivalent movies aren’t going to respond well to Save the Date. The film’s other weak spot is the way the story deals with the ex-boyfriend, played by Geoffrey Arend. The story returns to him periodically but after the breakup he just does not figure into the life of the main character and his subsequent scenes are out of place.
DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, music video, and trailers.
Bottom Line: Save the Date is an above average love story. Although the movie isn’t breaking new ground it does approach contemporary romance with more intelligence than dime-a-dozen romantic comedies staring former television sitcom stars.
Episode: #349 (May 19, 2013)