“Valentine’s Day” Review
Not a whole lot to say about this film, so let’s keep it short and sweet. All in all, it’s about seventeen different chick flicks combined into one, as if one wasn’t enough to begin with. They’ve managed to cram every sappy and cliched plotline from other cheap romantic comedies and micromanaged them into bite-sized form. You have a woman in love, who doesn’t realize there’s another woman. You’ve got two strangers meeting on an airplane. You’ve got a guy who meets a girl who has a mysterious double life. You’ve got a budding young teenage romance and an elderly couple trying to hang on to theirs, along with many, many more. All these plots and all of these people, and what do you get? A candy-coated mess of a movie.
There’s quite a few issues with this piece of cinema. A big one is the film’s overwhelming sense of predictability. In every single case, it seems obvious to the audience how every story will be resolved. You know who’s going to break up, who’s going to make up and who’s going to hook up, and usually it’s just not at all exciting. The acting, for the most part, is stale and dissatisfying. Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Jamie Foxx and Julia Roberts more or less just meander through their lines. The “Grey’s Anatomy” stars are completely flat. Ashton Kutcher is his usual douchebag self. And the combination of Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner is perhaps the worst acting couple in recent film history. The only highlights were perhaps Anne Hathaway with her energetic variety of personalities and the always lovely Shirley MacLaine as a guilt-stricken grandmother.
Another noticeable flaw is the film’s quite poor use of editing. A story with this bulky of a plot needs a lot of fine-tuned editing to keep a fluid motion. The structure of “Valentine’s Day” is jumbled and clunky, and without the help of solid cutting, it seems completely uneven, as well. The different stories don’t melt together in a rhythmic fashion and the momentum is almost completely lost in the shuffle. Also, the film makes some very strange attempts at parallel editing which don’t accomplish the point of the technique. Instead of intercutting two scenes at a steady rhythm and matching intensity, they simply have two things happening and cut them together in an increasingly awkward manner.
Overall, the biggest flaw is that in a film such as this with many different stories and boatloads of characters, they need to feed and feed off each other as well as exist in their own right. Don’t get me wrong, this film certainly does intertwine it’s characters, but it just does not do it well. If you were to cut this film into pieces and have each story work as an individual film, quite simply put, they would not do so.
None of the stories follow a solid three-act plot structure. None of them are meaty enough in substance and conflict in both story and characters to act as individual tales. When the characters interact outside the boundaries of their inherent stories, those stories are damaged and lose their relevance. When you look at films that successfully accomplish the crisscross method (“Magnolia,” “Short Cuts,” hell even “Crash” does it better than this film) each character, or group of characters, is interesting enough to practically have an entire movie based on just them, and therefore, the whole structure is the better for it. In the case of “Valentine’s Day,” instead of getting a pretty, ribbon-tied basket of delicious treats, you’re handed a flattened box of sloppy, melted, old chocolate recently bought at the local convenience store. In essence: a mess.
GRADES: C- * 1/2 / * * * * * 3 / 10.0