Sunday 8 December 2013

Love Notes (2013)

Director: Ryan Scheer
Stars: Josh Kopp, Elisabeth Zimmerman and Laura Beth Kirsop
This film was an official selection at the Filmstock Arizona 2013 round of the revolving Filmstock film festival. Here's an index to my reviews of all selections.
It may be impossible not to like Love Notes, even if we fully realise how few clothes the Emperor has on, because it's just so kawaii. Everything surrounds its gimmick, which is a rather fun one: everyone in the film, along with most of the inanimate objects, communicate through Post-it notes. This provides a cute and bubbly layer that sits on top of the usual story, enhanced by a cute and bubbly score. It's the sort of picture that's so inherently upbeat that it could be prescribed by doctors to treat depression; it can't fail to coax a smile from anyone watching it and it has a pretty good shot of managing it even when merely thinking about it. The fantastic side of the story is impossible to avoid, with a set of wildly unrealistic but highly grinworthy moments like Jim's alarm clock, which wakes him up by dropping BEEP notes onto his head or the way he plays solitaire on his computer screen with a Post-it per card. That one's technically doable, a lot more so than Post-it texting or Facenote, which are still cute.

Yet behind the gimmick, there's really not much of anything. The Post-it notes merely provide the glue for the usual romcom framework where a boy loses a girl and then finds another one, with little chance for the actors to sell how wonderful they are because none of them are given the opportunity to speak, at least not out loud. Josh Kopp is a vaguely endearing lead, though we find it tough to concentrate on his character over his interaction with the gimmick because he's as two dimensional as his notes. His dream girl only shows up for one scene, which is promptly stolen out from under her by the solid silent era musical accompaniment, which leaves Elisabeth Zimmerman tasked with pulling both Jim and the story out of the doldrums. Fortunately she's up to the task, as cute as a button in a girl next door sort of way. In many ways she's the personification of this entire film, because she isn't just cute, she's a plea to us to be just as cute going forward. The cuteness is infectious.

To be fair, there is a little substance hiding in the cracks, opening up commentary about what we keep private and we make public, because we may not always be aware of which is which. The fantastic side blurs into more realistic abstraction at points, such as the core romantic scene on a riverside bench with the characters literally wearing their emotions on their sleeves. The most efficient shorthand of the film arrives here, as Jim draws a broken heart and Ramona colours it in. Another example is the ending, for the film wraps up with one of the great kisses of cinema; great because even little boys won't feel icky about it. It's these moments that help Love Notes to shine, because the script is flimsy, the characters archetypes and the outcome never in doubt. Fortunately there are many such moments. I liked the way that Jim's co-workers are colourcoded by notes, right down to the boring white guy, and talk in different languages. I like how Spero at Pete's Gyro clearly let these students rework his entire restaurant, down to the menu, with Post-it notes. I like Molly the dachshund's bark. All in all, this is a very likeable film!


Laura Beth Kirsop said...

Great review and great thoughts! I played Evelyn the mean "dream girl" in this film. And it was a blast! Loved how the finished product came out, and glad you liked it.
Wish I could claim the "as cute as a button in a girl next door sort of way"--but that part was played by Elizabeth Zimmrman. She did a fantastic job.

~Laura Beth

Hal C. F. Astell said...

Thanks, Laura Beth!

I've duly updated the name to fix my prior misidentification.