There was a period in the early 1990s where every show needed to have a band in it. And they would not just be occasionally mentioned. They would be major players in the show. My So Called Life and Saved by the Bell are two noticeable examples. The trend reached its apex with The Heights. The Fox drama was about the eponymous band. It even went on to birth a number one song. There has been an increase in recent years in biopics about songwriting legends and movies centered around music. If there was ever a time to revisit that part of the 90s, now is it.
Tell Me I Love You is a 2020 romantic comedy that centers around a band trying to break it big. The movie is about three roommates who are on the verge of fulfilling their dreams. All they need is the money they do not have to finally record their demo. When an opportunity comes up, they come up with a plan to solve all their problems.
The movie will be familiar to many people who watch it. Along with the musical element, Tell Me I Love You is also reminiscent of a screwball comedy and a zany sitcom. In between it all, director and writer Fiona MacKenzie clearly has a message to get across. It sounds like there is a lot going on because there is. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of great movies with dovetailing plots. Most of today’s film’s tackle a variety of themes. Taking on different subjects and having various subplots can keep things from becoming stale. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Tell Me I Love You.
Most romantic comedies have an air of wackiness about them. Here, the scheme is something out of Three’s Company or any other sitcom from the 1980s. There are the standard misunderstandings until it culminates in a big crazy moment. The parents are out of touch and the gay men know all about fashion. Everything is in place for a funny, if generic, movie.
The problem is Tell Me I Love You never really comes off as a comedy, but it is too silly to take seriously. There is a moment where one of the roommates (Melanie) has to explain to her new girlfriend why so many people at a club seem to know her so intimately. Later, her whole family shows up unexpectedly, leading to hijinx threatening to ruin the whole plan.
How they get to these silly moments contradict the film’s message. Melanie knows all these people because she sleeps around with whoever she wants – as long as they are under 30 and can help her career. People show up at her house because of a lie she told in order to get an inheritance. She is portrayed as progressive and the hero, but she is a pretty awful person.
Tell Me I Love You goes out of its way to show how forward thinking it is. Along with LGBTQ themes (according to the marketing; the lesbians in the movie are not painted in a good light), there is a vegetarian cookout and a neighbor who is apparently uncool because he wants to have a threeway with two women. It gets to the point to where a song lightly playing in the background is about inclusivity and not judging people. That it happens at a sham wedding makes it even more difficult to believe it is sincere.
There is nothing wrong with a movie having positive messages. But when it is as forced and shoehorned as Tell Me I Love You, it becomes cynical and insincere. It also gives everything a very disjointed feel to it. It is hard to tell who the audience is for this film. It alternates between nostalgic, Young Adult, and wanting to say something important. It never quite gets it right doing any of them.
Tell Me I Love You is strange. It never seems to know what it wants to be. The movie is light hearted and fun and the plot does a good job of never getting too serious. That being said, there are some strong messages the film wants to get across. They are positive ones that are especially important in today’s world. Ironically, they are not done justice here.
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