‘Love Again’ operates in paradoxes. It is simultaneously unsatisfying and likable. The plot itself oscillates between cute and creepy.
There is nothing quite like the promise of an escapist romantic comedy in the season of breakups. If the frequency of celebrity uncouplings are any indication, love seems to suddenly have an expiry date. But not in James C. Strouse’s Love Again, the English-language adaptation of the 2016 German film Texts For You (SMS für Dich), which takes that cynicism and gives it a liberal (and rewarding) Celine Dion-esque spin. This is a romantic comedy that believes that our hearts will go on and, more importantly, wants its viewers to know and realise that love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime. Is the film successful in converting the stone-hearted into a believer? Not completely. But it does get sufficiently close.
Starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, and Celine Dion in her first role (the singer is also one of the producers), Love Again operates in paradoxes — in the sense that it is simultaneously unsatisfying and likable. Then, the film boasts the kind of premise that alternates between giving in to the power of modern texting in bringing two strangers together and resisting any influence of the swiping culture to insist that meet-cutes can happen the old-fashioned way, especially if you’re grieving the death of your boyfriend or heartbroken after being dumped at the altar.
An easy chemistry
The plot itself oscillates between cute and creepy: Two years after witnessing the love of her life die in a freak accident in front of her eyes, Mira Ray (Chopra Jonas), a New York-based children’s illustrator is having a hard time letting go. She still wears her dead boyfriend’s clothes and sends intimate texts to her dead boyfriend’s phone number. As luck and plot contrivances would have it, Rob (Heughan), a sardonic music critic, who inherits her dead boyfriend’s number, is on the receiving end of these messages, equal parts clueless and curious about the identity of the sender.
Recovering from the humiliation of having his fiancée call off their wedding last-minute, Rob is equally heartbroken, channeling his grief into all-round resentment toward all things romance. But the texts shift something in him; instead of being indifferent to Mira’s texts, he appears to be touched by the sincerity of her emotions. That Rob is also assigned to work on a profile of Celine Dion around the same time, allows the popstar ample opportunity to play both counselor and mascot for his impending love story, which naturally has its share of hurdles before it propels itself to a happily-ever-after.
Both Chopra-Jonas and Heughan share an easy chemistry, keeping the film afloat although their characters are thinly sketched and border on being one-dimensional. That the film’s screenplay churns out easy change of heart by the dozen doesn’t quite help the film attain any edge as Rob and Mira come across as agreeable people willing to fall in love with the next available stranger. Then again, there is only so much you can fault a romantic comedy for disavowing logic.
A Celine Dion vehicle of mass-produced love
On its part, Love Again doesn’t appear too concerned with possessing any smarts, content in turning the film into a Celine Dion vehicle of mass-produced love. Of course, the popstar is the best part about the film, her real-life loss of her husband serving as ample foil for the film’s manufactured yearning.
In the scenes that the popstar shares with Hueghan, she’s a hoot, contorting her face into several comical gestures and landing one-liners with aplomb. It’s wonderful to see Dion stay fully committed to the bit, putting her inner weirdo on full display. Still one did wish the film would get her to bring some much-needed nastiness into the mix plucked straight from The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly. The only time Love Again slightly sheds its cutesy armour is arguably the film’s silliest set-piece — enlisting Nick Jonas as a self-obsessed, horny gym bro out on a date with Chopra Jonas.
One wishes the film leaned into its sass a little bit more instead of letting the entirety of its 104-minute runtime pander to a saccharine version of love that remains easygoing but averse to taking any risk. The result is a pleasant love-story that doesn’t quite soar. Surely, this isn’t a love that will go on.