Directed by Jason Orley, “I Want You Back” is a throwback rom-com about straight love lives, and the jokes hit as much as they miss. The story is mediocre and formal, yes, but pleasant. And it shows not only ladies going through sobbing heartbreak, but guys going through it as well.
Peter (Charlie Day), a manager at a nursing home company, is dumped by Anne (Gina Rodriguez), his girlfriend who has been an English teacher for six years. In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Anne finds him complacent and hops with the seductive bohemian Logan (Manny Jacinto), who dreams of Off Broadway fame but settles for directing school plays.
Meanwhile, Emma (Jenny Slate), a volatile receptionist who lives with college students, gets the boot of Noah (Scott Eastwood), a personal trainer who has fallen for a more emotionally mature cake shop owner.
Start with the tearful despair and Instagram stalking.
A compassion and karaoke-filled friendship unfolds between Emma and Peter, sparking mutually beneficial plans to break up their exes’ newfound relationships: Peter will single Noah again and Emma will seduce Logan. It works a bit, though mostly as a channel for self-discovery. Hilarious moments also arise, such as when Emma, endearingly delusional (the power of Slate), volunteers to join Logan’s new production and takes the stage for a bizarrely heartfelt rendition of “Suddenly, Seymour.” Or when Peter’s paternal side, high on MDMA, dives into a hot tub from a rooftop with girls half his age.
Orley and screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (the duo behind “Love, Simon”) build out a not entirely superficial ensemble story, even as they rely on new archetypes for their modern-day lovers, like the late-blooming messy woman or the sensitive man with baby fever. . “I Want You Back” isn’t particularly clever or emotionally touching, but it does deliver on the genre’s corny promises of dealing with recognizable relationship problems with the least recognizable means.
I want you back
Rated R for some nudity from behind, short sex scenes, drug use and language. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. Look on Amazon.