Umbrella Academy star's Netflix rom-com is a dud

Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi/ Netflix
Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi/ Netflix

Nearly all romcoms' success rests on a certain level of formulaic appeal: an unlikely couple in less-than-ideal circumstances, usually set in a dreamily idyllic location, a meet-cute that involves some level of eventually surmountable stress, an epiphany or two, and of course a happy ending.

Love in the Villa (which, no, isn't anything to do with Love Island despite the way the title lends itself to something reality-show adjacent) adheres strictly to this formula.

Our unlikely and wildly attractive couple is Umbrella Academy's Tom Hopper as stiff-upper-lipped-Charlie and The Vampire Diaries' Kat Graham as neurotic-but-romantic Julie. They wind up double booked in a villa in Verona and, in true rom-com fashion, do everything possible to force the other one to leave the villa (instead of, you know, just getting on with it which we concede wouldn't be nearly as interesting of a movie).

Most of the runtime is dedicated to the antics Charlie and Julie engage in, which are fun for the first ten minutes and then a drag for the rest (the film runs an astonishing one hour 45 when it should've hewed closer to 90).

There is a bit of a subplot involving Charlie's wine-buying business but nothing is really riding on his ability to 'make the deal' (unlike in another eerily similar Netflix rom-com A Perfect Pairing).

Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi - Netflix
Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi - Netflix

It is refreshing to have a female protagonist who eschews the #girlboss vibes that are so prevalent in contemporary romcoms, and Graham lends a realism to Julie despite the starry-eyed naivety with which she speaks.

Hopper plays the reserved but charming Charlie well, but the character lacks any depth beyond that — the idea that there's more beneath the surface rather than the thing itself isn't alluring enough for us to fall in love with him, and therefore when Julie does it's sort of hard to believe.

Her ex-boyfriend Brandon (Ginny and Georgia's Raymond Ablack) packs more allure into his few minutes on screen — even as he dumps Julie on the eve of their Verona trip and suggests she goes solo.

There are typical dumb American tourist moments that butt up against stereotypes of Italians in a way in which no one comes out feeling good about themselves, but nor are they amusing enough to allow us to laugh at ourselves (and as an Italian-American dual citizen, the beats of 'humour' were particularly cringey to watch for yours truly).

Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi/Netflix
Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi/Netflix

The 'secrets' that lead to the 'epiphany' aren't quite so damning – Charlie has an on-again-off-again fiancée (not really a spoiler given how reliant on the formula Love in the Villa is, there are obviously going to be other partners involved) who says "OMG" in deadpan earnestness so many times you begin to wonder if it isn't actually a phrase ripe for a comeback (on second thoughts, no it isn't).

In a way, though, Cassie (played by Laura Hopper, Tom Hopper's wife) isn't as annoying as she could be, nor particularly upset when Charlie and she part ways.

It's a deft move that doesn't pit the two women against each other, the one refreshing part of the film. Brandon, too, isn't annoying so much as a bit of a try-hard: doing what he thinks Julie (and everyone else) wants him to do rather than listen to his heart — luckily, his handsomeness makes up for it.

All in all, Love in the Villa isn't insulting nor problematic, it's fine. Perfectly bland and easy to watch: like Kraft "Italian hard cheese" and while we'd rather have Parmigiano Reggiano any day, in a pinch, Kraft will do.

Love in the Villa is now available to watch on Netflix.

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