- Self-Assurance Is Lost and Found in Twee Romantic Comedy -
Don’t be fooled by the empowerment-sounding title of “Finding You”: The engine of writer-director Brian Baugh’s romantic comedy isn’t driven by the woman herself, but by the men who are continually placed in power positions that directly inform her arc. Where it would have been nice to see the heroine unlocking her own potential, the film instead focuses on her finding an intercontinental romance with a dashing young man, life coaching from an unlikely male ally and a mysterious message from her deceased older brother. This not-insignificant miscalculation aside, however, effervescent performances from an ebullient ensemble make “Finding You” a palatable and compelling female coming-of-age tale.
As if beckoned by the siren call of the bubbly pop song on the soundtrack, violinist Finley Sinclair (Rose Reid) emerges from the depths of the subway, a seemingly confident young woman negotiating New York City’s frenetic hustle and bustle. But, as we soon find out during her botched audition at Manhattan’s prestigious music conservatory, she’s insecure when given the spotlight to perform. Her own critical overthinking is severely hampering her career ambitions. In an effort to get out of her head, she takes a semester abroad in Ireland just like her saintly, older brother Alex, who recently passed away, had done at her age.
The luck of the Irish starts rubbing off immediately on her flight as she nabs a seat in first class, unknowingly seated next to megawatt movie star Beckett Rush (Jedidiah Goodacre). His Cheshire cat grin, floppy brown hair and pervasive charms fail to impress her — that is, until they discover they’re staying at the same picturesque bed and breakfast in the quaint seaside hamlet of Carlingford.
But Finley is hardly the only one wrestling with inner conflicts. The “Game of Thrones”-esque fantasy franchise that Beckett is shooting is on its last legs, so he and co-star Taylor (Katherine McNamara) must keep up appearances in the media that they’re a couple to ensure the sequel’s success. His contracts are being renegotiated, which could have him monetarily set for life. This scheme has all been orchestrated by Beckett’s manipulative father Montgomery (Tom Everett Scott), who’s putting an intense amount of pressure on his son to sustain their lavish lifestyle.
Finley’s host family, the Callaghans, are also feeling the pinch. Nora (Fiona Bell) and Sean’s (Ciaran McMahon) business is on the line if word gets out that the major movie star is staying with them. Their boisterous, gregarious teen daughter Emma (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) is stressed that she won’t get asked to the big local dance. Town drunk Seamus (Patrick Bergin) has been written off by most people, but is hoping to prove his worth once again. Finley’s extracurricular activities bring her into contact with Cathleen (Vanessa Redgrave), a misanthropic nursing home patient who’s desperate to make things right with her estranged sister Fiona (Helen Roche).
Baugh, who adapts Jenny B. Jones’ novel “There You’ll Find Me,” keeps the hijinks strictly wholesome, embracing the more fantastical elements of the genre for a heightened, romanticized portrayal of Irish reality. There’s scarce drinking shown in the town’s pub, no bad language, and the budding romance is kept chaste — like the pair’s dinner for two where they play around with stunt harnesses on set, or when they inevitably share their first smooch. Beautifully crafted montages where Finley and Beckett visit tourist hotspots are especially beguiling. Drone shots moving over the town, the lush green Irish landscapes and the Cliffs of Moher are rapturous, like something cooked up by the tourist bureau.
Themes surrounding forgiveness, family and fidelity hover around the fringes of the picture, though the execution can sometimes be clunky, especially when it blindsides audiences with a faith-based message in the third act. And the film’s gender politics are problematic — not just that Finley can’t figure out what’s best for her unless a man encourages it. A notable portion of the film’s interpersonal conflicts are fueled by female jealousy, and instances like the catty underpinnings of Taylor and Finley’s barbed introduction and the motivation fueling the sisters’ squabble are grating as a result.
Carrying the heart of this material is no easy feat, but Reid and Goodacre deliver delightfully nuanced work. They transform hokey lines into sweet sentiments. Reid is captivating, capably leading with empathy and vulnerability. Goodacre is magnetic, exploring his character’s depths. The dynamite duo share great chemistry, highlighted when they’re caught in heated repartee. Meanwhile, Jackson stands out in her supporting role. Her controlled comedic bluster is best showcased in the sequence where she has a physical reaction (replete with hilarious full-body heaves) to dreamboat Beckett being in her kitchen.
Overall, the film’s philosophies about not overthinking things might strike a chord. It’s a nice reminder for many who’ve been carrying around anxieties and insecurities that stand in the way of their success. Just don’t expect many newfound discoveries when getting lost in this tale.
- Courtney Howard, VARIETY
Finding You is now playing at Light House Petone and Pauatahanui