‘The Idea of You’ Movie Review: A Formulaic Rom-Com That Struggles to Stand Out

I’m as much a fan of rom-coms as of any other genre mix. As long as the narrative doesn’t fall into the usual formulaic traps and quickly becomes just another cheap, forgettable variation of a story watched and rewatched countless times, I always find myself open-minded and ready to be swept away by light humor and passionate romance. Based on the novel of the same name by Robinne Lee, The Idea of You tells the story of Solène (Anne Hathaway), a 40-year-old divorced mother who starts an unexpected romance with the lead singer of the world’s most popular boy band, Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine).

Directed by the experienced Michael Showalter (The Big SickThe Eyes of Tammy Faye), co-written by himself and Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), and starring Hathaway (Les Misérables) and Galitzine (Red, White & Royal Blue), my personal interest in The Idea of You mostly stems from the actress, who has never ceased to demonstrate the immeasurable talent she possesses, regardless of some less positive choices in the last decade.

Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You on Prime Video
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You on Prime Video

A Familiar Rom-Com Formula

I don’t usually go into rom-coms with high expectations, and I didn’t with The Idea of You, but I was aware of the overwhelmingly positive initial reception. Unfortunately, whether because it came from the always dubious bubble of a film festival or because it simply found the ideal target audience, I was surprised by the total lack of any narrative innovation or daring character decision. Showalter and Westfeldt’s script goes through all the clichés and formulas present in movies dozens of times over a single year, relying entirely on the chemistry between the leads to capture the audience’s attention.

The premise of The Idea of You has been explored by so many films in the past that it’s difficult to come up with something truly fresh. I don’t want to make the mistake of criticizing an entire movie just because it didn’t break the genre with a unique approach or unconventional storytelling. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy a generic flick if the plot points and character development are executed in a captivating manner. A recent successful example is Marry Me with Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, where the superb performances, along with genuine chemistry, highly addictive original songs, compelling dialogues, and, obviously, truly romantic moments, compensate for the natural improbability and predictability of stories of this kind.

Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine – Dedicated Performances in a Disappointing Film

The Idea of You only has the chemistry between the actors and their dedicated performances. The musical style couldn’t be further from my personal taste, but the biggest problem lies in the excessively fluffy lyrics that detract from any potential connection with the songs. This oversweetness extends to the dialogues, which, except for a couple of situations, address incredibly complex, sensitive topics with an unrealistically optimistic lightness, as if they were nothing. From the intrusion of social media in our personal lives to the impact of parental choices on children’s lives and vice versa, Showalter skips through these life obstacles without much concern.

The couple separates in one scene and, one or two scenes later, they reunite. This cycle happens several times throughout the film, and The Idea of You never lets the transition between these junctures reach the audience in an impactful way or even generate doubt about how the protagonists will solve their issues. The ending is completely incoherent with previous points, even contradicting crucial narrative details for the final circumstances.

Themes Explored, But Not Deeply Enough

The Idea of You should be a thematically rich story, but its themes are superficially explored with conclusions more frustrating than memorable. Repeating what I mentioned above, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a generic film, but when there aren’t enough positive elements to compensate for the numerous bland narrative formulas, not even a sensually captivating Hathaway with impressive emotional range or an expressive Galitzine with a beautiful voice can steer the film to a successful outcome.

Final Thoughts on The Idea of You

The Idea of You can’t seem to find enough standout elements to compensate for the lack of narrative innovation, thematic depth, or compelling execution. Michael Showalter gets lost in the shallowness of the genre’s countless formulas, the excessive fluffiness of the dialogues, and the dull clichés that fill a very familiar premise, failing to justify a frustratingly incoherent ending. While Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine’s performances are blameless, the film leaves much to be desired in terms of emotional impact. Disappointing…


The Idea of You is now streaming on Prime Video.

Learn more about the film at the Prime Video website.

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