Mark Murphy’s For Love or Money has the immediate disadvantage of inevitable comparisons to classic British romantic comedies. Four Weddings and a Funeral and other well established Richard Curtis pieces have come to define British cinema in this regard to both critical and popular acclaim. For Love or Money does not join this collective. But, we probably already knew that before watching.
The essential plot follows unlucky-in-love Mark (Robert Kazinsky) following a chance encounter with his childhood crush Connie (Samantha Barks). She remains disinterested in him until she learns of Mark’s imminent fortune pending the sale of his startup app – it’s very 2019. The couple quickly gets engaged within the film’s first fifteen minutes, however, it’s Mark’s discovery of Connie’s duplicitous intentions that really drives For Love or Money’s plot forward. Mark, with the help of Connie’s ex-friend Kendra (Rachel Hurd-Wood) exacts his revenge and maybe (no, definitely) learns about love along the way.
The film defines itself as an “unromantic comedy.” However, this transgressive claim is a bold one. It most certainly does not redefine the genre. For Love or Money is at its most enjoyable once Mark gets into the swing of punishing Connie for lying to him alongside a surprisingly good soundtrack – a personal highlight was Aztec Camera’s Somewhere in my Heart. We actually feel some sympathy towards Connie and as the film goes on she is less deserving of Mark’s treatment. A part of me even wondered about the potential normalisation of gaslighting and controlling behaviour, but the film is not quite that nuanced. Indeed, it feels more like a series of sketches strung together rather than a cohesive narrative. The tone is jarring; are we meant to be hateful of love and eschew it at every possible point, or does it end up too saccharine in demonstrating our need and want for it? Kind of both.
The actors are really acting and trying their best to convey some sort of humour in the sometimes lacking script. The cast even share a strange enunciation, in other words, it can feel forced. The one bright spot in an otherwise vaguely-familiar-from-British-TV cast is Tony Way, who recently starred alongside Ricky Gervais in Netflix’s Afterlife. Way appears to feel the most at ease in the film and its genre. His character and Mark do have a supportive, if also unrealistically all-consuming, friendship. Rachel Hurd-Wood as Kendra is also another one of the stronger performances, and her motivations are clearer than some of the others. But our villains Connie and Johnny (in vogue Brit Flick antagonist Edward Speelers) are too halfhearted, and our protagonist is not likeable nor fun to dislike.
With Netflix’s recent push in commissioning Romantic Comedies, 2019 has seen a revival in the genre’s popularity; its revival in British Cinema is yet to catch up. Nonetheless, it is pleasant. We all know what these kind of Romantic Comedies entail and if you go in with a healthy dose of cynicism of course you won’t enjoy it. Watch with your friends, laugh at it, and rest your mind for 90 minutes.
by Catherine McNaughton
Catherine McNaughton is currently studying at the University of Manchester. Inspired by feminism and Debbie Harry. Her favourite films include Amelie, Before Sunset and Moonlight. You can find her on twitter: @__CatherineMac