Hopefully, the latest Prime Holiday deal will come with a gift receipt.
Twenty-eight-year-old actress Zoey Deutch was born at the wrong time to star in a romantic comedy, or at the right time to let go. If only it were both. If only people were still making rom-coms worthy of the light and love of Deutch — who previously flirted with the genre in Netflix’s “Set It Up,” between salacious roles in the likes of “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Not Alright” – more capable of bringing that side of Meg Ryan to them than anyone.
But they’re not, and nowhere is that more evident than in a warm-but-weak-spirited holiday trivia like “Something From Tiffany’s,” which gives Deutch a chance to shine with full electric power during a movie that can barely muster the power to turn on a string of Christmas lights. Birth. I think it’s fitting that her character be more like a Hanukkah girl, because the fire she brings to the role is almost potent enough to keep this contrived love story smoldering (at its simmering low) for 83 minutes.
Adapted from Melissa Hill’s novel of the same name, Something From Tiffany’s opens with a sweatier premise than Patrick Ewing in the first half, forcing screenwriter Tamara Chestna to untangle some messy story beats when it needs to focus more on provoking a love connection. The action begins in the titular jewelry store on a glamorous New York City night, where a sweet, cartoonish-looking widower named Ethan (‘Insecure’ Kendrick Smith’) and his pre-teen daughter Daisy (Leah Jeffries) are shopping for the engagement ring that Ethan plans to give to his gorgeous girlfriend. but reclusive, Vanessa (Shay Mitchell).
Standing on the sidewalk outside after his ill-fated purchase, Ethan bumps into some white shamoo running out of Tiffany’s with his own little blue bag before being run over by a yellow cab. That’s when — in a classic combination that “Lola Versus” director Daryl Wynn so vividly shot for a scene from “Last Year in Marienbad” — the two men ended up walking away with the wrong gifts.
So far, so typical of the genre. Even Daisy’s insistence that Ethan bring her to the hospital in order to check on the injured stranger seems reasonable enough by rom-com standards; I mean, And How else Is Ethan supposed to meet the victim’s bright, ever-optimistic friend Rachel (Deutch), a baker who seems to run her Little Italy and Bryant Park pop-up on plucks and cornitos alone?
But things don’t happen truly Vintage until gifts are exchanged: Ethan is surprised to learn he’s got Vanessa a modest pair of earrings, while tattoo artist Gary (Ray Nicholson, son of Jack) is shocked to discover he’s bought Rachel an oversized engagement ring. Like the Ritz though the two have never talked about tying the knot. Adding to Gary’s shock is the fact that he’s apparently hit with amnesia in one of his fancy new cabs (only in New York’s Eric Adams!), and can’t remember whether or not he meant to propose to Rachel. He knows he can’t afford diamonds, but when a bright-eyed chef who talks to her soup and wears a gracefully zabar shirt in a little black dress agrees to be your wife, you’re not giving her reason to hold back.
“Something From Tiffany’s” is at its best during the 49 minutes it spends checking receipts, in part because the movie is more interesting before Gary is just an oblivious Peter Gallagher-style act in “While You Were Sleeping.” You know, before it was inevitably revealed as a complete schmuck so bad for Rachel that you can’t tell if she’s falling in love with a new guy or running away from her ex’s clutches; Nicholson’s glowing performance leaves little room for mystery, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to inject some life into the climactic, limp scene when the character reveals his true colors.
Best as Vanessa appears to have escaped the indignity of becoming an evil stepmother, the movie reasons for kicking this flawless, superstitious woman to the curb — she doesn’t want to live in New York? Do you think Ethan’s first novel sucks and that he should stick to academia? – somehow less satisfactory. True Love has a funny way of unearthing any current or past imitations, but the lethargic “Tiffany’s Thing” doesn’t provide any of the laughs to go along with that.
What the movie does have is a certain holiday charm, even if the chemistry between Sampson and Deutch is far from smoldering, and the relationship between Ethan and Rachel feels as real and nuanced as the relationship in a Christmas-themed Lexus commercial (the only thing) it’s surprising this light-hearted movie offers is that It doesn’t end with Rachel gifting Ethan an SUV with a giant bow on top). It’s New York in December. Everyone is wearing beautiful peacock coats. It snows at just the right moment. Wayne apparently filmed the scenes involving Rachel’s pop-up in the festive glow of the real Bryant Park, which lends his film the thin amount of credibility it needs to prevent local viewers from quipping that Ethan’s “secret spot” is actually one of the city’s most famous gathering spots. in its entirety.
Regardless, “Something at Tiffany’s” sold me on the idea that Ethan and Rachel found each other in an enchanted world, even if the movie never mustered a compelling reason why these two incredibly beautiful people should walk together. Sure, Ethan and Rachel bond over their shared history of personal failure (there’s nothing better than finding love during your ups and downs), and they both need to learn to take risks and follow their hearts.
But these characters are drawn thinly even by the most generous rom-com standards — other than his recessive demeanor, Ethan often seems to have forgotten about his dead first wife — and the writing is never sharp enough to poke holes through their armour. Rachel is left to rely on a nuclear-powered magician’s onslaught, as Deutch’s near-founded carelessness pervades the film’s absurd plotting, lack of emotional seriousness, and almost complete lack of jokes.
As the story faded toward ignoring the happy ending, I found myself more eager for Nancy Myers to save Deutch from Wayne than I was for Ethan to save Rachel from Gary. Unlike “something from Tiffany’s,” this would definitely be a gift worth keeping.
“Something From Tiffany’s” will be available to stream on Prime Video starting Friday, December 9th.
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