(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Movie: Set It Up
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: As all the best romantic comedies do, Set It Up begins with a scheme: two tired and starving-for-a-social-life assistants hatch a genius (if slightly selfish) plan to make their workaholic bosses fall in love with each other. What better way to construct a rom-com than to make the two lead characters craft their own?
Why Its Essential Viewing: Set It Up is cliched in all the best ways. It’s like watching a rom-com from the golden era, without all the poorly-aged politics of a questionable dynamic or clearly terrible love interest. Zoey Deutch is endlessly charming as Harper, a 25-year-old assistant to a powerhouse sports editor played by the suitably intimidating Lucy Liu. She teams up with Glen Powell‘s Charlie to pair Liu off with his boss, the effortlessly entertaining Taye Diggs. And the results are, temporarily, pretty solid. You know how scheming goes — everything seems perfect until it falls apart.
If you’ve ever interned anywhere or been anyone’s assistant, it won’t take you long to get behind their motivation. But Set It Up also dares to go beyond the “work is hard and I’m tired” mindset that sparks their plot. Its protagonists also come to some important realizations: Charlie discovers that he isn’t pursuing his career for any of the right reasons, while Harper has a beautiful subplot about rediscovering her passion for writing.
Other characters exist too, Tituss Burgess snags some laughs as an elevator operator who loves enclosed spaces and succulents. Also, weirdly, Pete Davidson is there as Charlie’s roommate who wonderfully bounces off of Harper and has pretty great moments toward the end, dumping his iced coffee on someone we come to collectively hate. But the core four is where it’s at, with all four leads delivering amazing chemistry and plenty of humor.
I can’t spend enough time raving about Deutch, whose performance is so easy and earnest that you barely notice the movie flying by. Charlie has a great rapport with Harper; their banter is easy, light, and hilarious. But Charlie also has plenty of growing to do. He proves himself to be fairly selfish and superficial, making clear early on that he doesn’t deserve Harper, as is too often true in rom-coms. But here’s the great thing — the movie knows that! She knows that! We are all aware that he has to earn his shot at dating her. And so he does.
People keep rattling on about how romantic comedies are dead, and while that’s certainly not true, we aren’t exactly drowning in them. At least not very good ones. Too often, recent rom-coms have the outline figured out, but none of the heart needed to make it work (I’m looking at you, Holidate).
We all know it by heart — an unlikely pair have their differences, slowly warm up to each other and eventually realize they’re in love. Bonus points if there’s a scheme involved, and a gold trophy if someone runs across New York to reach their beloved. But even when the path is clear, these movies don’t always cross the finish line or worse, they don’t have enough charm to make it halfway. But Set It Up understands where they fail and succeeds everywhere that it must.
I can proudly say that I’ve seen this film no less than 10 times in the 3 years it’s been out, and I’m sure to double that in years to come. It’s the perfect movie to throw on in the middle of a lethargic Sunday afternoon or to leave playing while you’re cooking, doing busywork or too tired to wire into some intense, action-packed drama. It’ll steal your attention before you know it and you’ll have the joy of witnessing Harper and Charlie’s endearing love story. And it won’t be long before Set It Up has you in its clutches and you’re rewatching it until the end of time.
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