The concept of destiny is rampant in romantic comedies and American International Pictures About Fate is no exception. From its title to the film’s numerous cliches and romantic coincidences, it’s hard not to be bashed over the head with the idea that true love conquers all.
Thomas Mann’s Griffin and Emma Roberts’ Margot obviously do not start out together at the beginning of the film. Griffin is about to propose to his influencer girlfriend Clemantine at Bennigans. She senses his next move and declares the space is not special enough for an engagement and storms out. A few minutes before, Margot leaves the restaurant in outrage that her boyfriend of three whole months, Kip, is not going to propose.
Even by romantic comedy logic, the setup for Griffin and Margot’s romance is extreme. Drunk, the former tries to go home and ends up sleeping at Margot’s by accident as they (for some reason) have the same address but don’t live together. Needing a date for her sister’s wedding, Margot gets Griffin to pay her back by pretending to be Kip. If you are a romantic comedy nerd, you’ve noticed the one-bed trope, the fake-dating trope, and the wedding date trope all in the film’s first act.
The cliches don’t stop with the plot points. Almost every character doesn’t feel grounded in reality. Margot is the needy, pushy, and desperate girl who determines her value on finding a partner – with no other defining features. If Margot feels dull and safe, her and Griffin’s significant others at the film’s start feel like one-dimensional cartoon characters. Madelaine Petsch’s Clemantine is vapid and mean to a fault. There’s nothing grounding or realistic about her character, just someone to root against. Kip (Lewis Tan) is an angry gym bro, who shows up at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding looking for a fight.
Mann, who was last seen in this summer’s charming Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, brings an indie feel to the Hallmark-like About Fate. With an awkward 2010s Michael Cera vibe, Mann is the best thing about this series of cliches. He’s approachable and charming but not overly so – giving us the most rounded performance of the ensemble.
About Fate is directed by Russian filmmaker Marius Balchunas and written by frequent Emma Roberts collaborator Tiffiany Paulsen (Holidate, Nancy Drew). The latter’s weak script is only stretched by Balchunas’ lack of visual inspiration and inconsistent pacing. Romcoms are supposed to be charming despite their tropes. Even with Mann’s charismatic subtly, there’s nothing really attractive about About Fate.
About Fate is in select theaters and on digital platforms now.