The failings of so many romantic comedies are that they are neither romantic nor funny. The romance is usually unbelievable and the comedy is too corny to really elicit genuine laughs. Fortunately, A Case of You handles the comedy very well and offers enough romance to warm the heart. Where A Case of You falters, however, is in the foundation of the story. The audience will go along because they’re supposed to, but they’ll never shake the feeling that they’re missing a very important piece that allows the rest of the film to make sense.
Sam (Justin Long) is a young writer of book adaptations, living in the big city. Despite an ostensibly successful career, he longs to write an original story. He also longs for the cute barista, Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood), at his local coffee shop. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to approach her, and decides that if he’s going to have a connection with her, then it has to be as her perfect guy. So Sam decides to check her Facebook profile and begins to mold his life around everything Birdie “likes”. But once she warms up to him, can Sam live with knowing that Birdie only likes the guy she thinks Sam is?
At its core, A Case of You is a pretty standard story that every person can relate to. Who hasn’t pretended to be more or less than what they are during the first few dates? In A Case of You, this story takes the logical turn and uses social media, making it very relevant for younger audiences. It’s given the illusion of complexity by adding some unresolved character issues as well as all the star cameos, like Sam Rockwell and Vince Vaughn, but overall, A Case of You is straightforward and simple.
The comedy, which the film does well, is quirky and ironic. For example, Sam sees a homeless man and tries to give him a dollar, but the man turns out to be just a guy, sitting on the ground, drinking some coffee – not a beggar holding out a cup. It’s a funny moment, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the film. There are other moments in the film that repeat this type of bit, neither pushing the plot forward nor revealing anything about characters. Comedy is essential to a romcom, but comedy for comedy’s sake is not as satisfying.
The romance in the film is adequate. It warms the heart to see Sam so smitten and to see just how far he’ll go and how much he’ll suffer for the object of his affection. It’s also great to see young people happy together; chalk it up to the wonderful screen chemistry between Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood. The problem with the romance, however, is that the film never sets up why Sam wants Birdie so much, nor does it explain why Sam is hell-bent on presenting himself as her perfect guy rather than just approach her as himself. A published book author of popular material is not a bad way to introduce oneself and is sure to land at least a first date. Instead, audiences are simply forced to watch Sam take the romantic and comedic route of trying to make all of Birdie’s interests his own. Viewers also just have to assume that Birdie is the kind of girl who is worth the effort.
What really makes A Case of You worth watching are all of the fantastic and frequent cameos by recognizable actors. In addition to Vaughn and Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Brendan Fraser, Sienna Miller and more make an appearance, and they steal the show every time they’re on. Rockwell, in particular, makes the most out of every second he’s on-screen.
A Case of You has a lot going for it. It’s got likeable leads, an outstanding ensemble and a prototypical story that everyone can enjoy. What it’s missing, however, is an overarching theme to tie everything together. Despite the plot involving fake personas, the film never tackles the question of how much “reality” a person should expose when courting. It would have been a great turn of events if Birdie confessed that her Facebook profile was just a pretentious compilation of things she wants people to think she likes, but in truth is much more prosaic, hammering home the idea that everyone displays a mask to some degree. Alas, that never happens, but it should have.