Nasim Pedrad has what it takes to fill the vacant space in romantic comedies left behind by Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. With a combination of wit, beauty, and natural comedic chops, Pedrad has a bright future ahead of her.
However, Desperados is not a comedic vehicle designed for Pedrad, and you can really tell that by the broad strokes that make up her character Wesley, and knowing that Isla Fisher was once attached the project. Desperados is about a woman desperate to find romantic and financial stability. Whilst working towards getting a job as a guidance counsellor, Wesley is also circling the drain in her romantic life. Her put upon friends do the best they can with her, but are dealing with their own issues too.
Wesley meets her perfect man Jared (Robbie Amell). However, it is clear that she is not the perfect woman for him, but he doesn’t know that. After interpreting his silence after they had sex as a sign of rejection, Wesley goes with the nuclear option to deal with it and sends a long, insulting, rage-filled email, only to find out that he was in a car crash in Mexico. Then hi-jinks ensue as she and her friends go down there to delete the email from his devices.
Firstly, each of these characters work independent of each other. Together there are tonal inconsistencies and a lack of balance for their individual stories within the film. Wesley is dealing with feeling unfulfilled, Kaylie (Sarah Burns) is struggling with infertility, and Brooke (Anna Camp) is in the midst of a divorce from a cheating husband. The actresses lack chemistry with each other and there is just a total disconnect between their story lines. Despite the best efforts of the cast, especially Pedrad, these characters just don’t work together.
On top of that, the film centres on a narrative that is all too familiar in romantic comedies, and that is the eccentric/crazy girl; a trope that was mocked and subverted in Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex Girlfriend. Wesley is unfortunately that type, and while she does go on an arc to come to terms with her self-sabotaging behaviour, her eventual redemption is neither earned or feels real. There is an attempt to subvert the archetype, but Wesley’s personality is neither affirmed or reinterpreted to craft a semblance of a recognisable person. Instead, she sort of just stays on the crazy train until circumstances force her to reevaluate her actions and force her to change.
Her friends go on their own separate journey, and although those characters have interesting arcs too, the stories don’t mesh with the main plot line. In fact, with all that is thrown at this film it could have easily been turned into a 4-5 part series rather than a 2 hour movie that doesn’t give room for either one of the friends to have fully fleshed out story arcs. Although, the script is not entirely to blame for the imbalances as there is great setup for everything, except the payoffs are sabotaged by the format.
What does feel real and earned is Wesley’s relationship with Sean (Lamorne Morris). Pedrad and Morris reunite after their stint on New Girl, and their chemistry and banter really works. It is so good that it warrants it’s own film focused entirely on them. Pedrad carries a lot of this film on her back and tries her best to make it all come together, but with Morris there is an ease in which her character’s eccentricities are validated and feel at home. It doesn’t feel like Wesley is putting on a show when she is with Sean. It is also in the scenes with Sean where there is actually something to laugh about as the two actors are naturally gifted comedians. Everything else just comes across as trying too hard to be edgy or shocking, and that sort of comedy can only go so far.
Making stories about complicated women can be tough, and making comedies is seemingly harder. There is a lot to contend with after many years negative tropes thrust upon women, and Desperados tries to subvert them. There was a real attempt to reclaim and re-contextualise this “crazy woman”, however, the whole thing just doesn’t come together well. At the end, Nasim Pedrad does her best, she has what it takes to be a romantic comedy leading lady.
Desperados is available to stream on Netflix now
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020). On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.