Sam Richardson and Brittany Snow elevate Hooking Up into a serviceable not-too-dark comedy from its rather forgettable origins.
Sam Richardson and Brittany Snow elevate Hooking Up into a serviceable not-too-dark comedy from its rather forgettable origins. The story of a man with a recurrence of testicular cancer and the bottoming out sex and love addict that enters his life, the film strains credulity in its opening moments when Richardson’s Bailey bumps into Snow’s Darla in the hallway outside the kindergarten classroom where she just got laid. So many adults have free reign in this particular elementary school because it hosts all manner of support groups after hours. He’s on his way to cancer support. She’s on her way to a court-ordered meeting of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous where the guy she just fucked is group leader. Hilarity attempt to ensue, but all that manifests are occasional chuckles.
This is disjointing because it’s happening in an elementary school, and makes one wonder if director Nico Raineau and co-screenwriter Lauren Schacher have ever attended a support group or 12-step meeting. Maybe a school district would let a cancer support group sit at the same desks that young children occupy during the day, but even the most cosmopolitan of 12-step meetings draws its sketchy newcomers who are not the sort you want around your children’s things. This may seem like a picayune digression, or an attempt at a joke taken personally, but to make such an odd choice at the beginning of a movie only plants the seed that what follows will be bullshit. And it is to varying degrees.
The problem is spawned from the choice of the filmmakers to skim over what is an admittedly dark premise to flirt with the more familiar beats of a romantic comedy. Bailey is a year removed from one cancer surgery and initially conflicted about having a second that would leave him without testicles. He is also separated from the only woman he has ever loved or slept with, his high school sweetheart Elizabeth (Anna Akana, who provides her character some range and gravitas). Darla’s addiction costs her her job as a chronicler of sexual escapades in an otherwise staid lifestyle magazine. Unfortunately, she has no other marketable skills and pitches her boss, Tanya (Jordan Brewster), on a series of articles where she relives her conquests with Bailey, a farewell tour for his sex life through the sites of her sexual history. The boss agrees, but Darla never tells Bailey the true nature of their road trip, masking it as part of her therapy, which is fine, because he has his own agenda. Elizabeth will be at a family function in Dallas, and Bailey intends to bring Darla in that classic move where a virtual stranger poses as your girlfriend to get your old girlfriend jealous, but, surprise, you’re falling in love with the stranger.
These are two fairly awful people on divergent paths to self-actualization, and the things that make them redeemable are the actors playing them. Richardson exudes a harmlessness that makes certain of Bailey’s aspects (like cyberstalking) somehow forgivable. Snow plays Darla with the kind of aggressiveness that puts her in the same cinematic line as Clark Gable in It Happened One Night and Cary Grant in His Girl Friday. They are both doing excellent work here, and you keep waiting for a good movie to appear deserving of their performances – one that has the courage of its premise. The great frustration is how much fertile dramatic and comic ground Rineau and Schacher ignore for what is more obvious and standard. No new ground is broken in cinema’s examination of love and obsession. As for addiction, well, they say you hit your bottom when you stop digging. That’s true of movies, too, after you hit play and your thumb hovers over the “Stop” button.