When Michelle (Emma Roberts) is humiliated after her boyfriend Allen (Luke Bracey) catches the bouquet at their friends’ wedding instead of her, she offers him an ultimatum: they get married or break up. With only 24 hours for Allen to decide, Michelle heads home to stay with her parents, Grace (Diane Keaton) and Howard (Richard Gere), and Allen stays with his, Monica (Susan Sarandon) and Sam (William H. Macy). After a breather and a little perspective, it’s decided that their parents should finally meet, but they already know each other.
Monica and Howard have been having an affair for four months, while Grace and Sam have only known each other for one day, having spent the previous night together. Speaking to Howard, Monica justifies their affair by saying, “This is about leaving the lives we have to spend time in the lives we deserve.” Grace and Sam are the nicer of the couple’s counterparts, especially Grace, who feels guilty about spending quality time with another man. As the affairs come to light over dinner, the parents try their best to hide their dalliances from their kids while confronting the reality of their marriages at this point in their lives. Meanwhile, Michelle and Allen grapple with the examples of marriage they’ve seen, which have informed their beliefs about love and marriage and what they think will happen to them.
The introduction to Michelle and Allen’s conflict feels like it belongs in another film, including the argument following the bouquet catching. Everything Roberts says to Bracey feels poorly written and juvenile. The couple certainly isn’t as interesting as their parents, where writer and director Michael Jacobs finds his strengths as he explores themes of love, marriage, loneliness, unmet needs, and ageing. There’s a profound discussion regarding love throughout the film, including Sam’s answer to Allen asking how he knows if he loves Michelle: “You don’t have to. Love is a word we’ve attached to describe a feeling we won’t understand until we’re old enough to look back on it and wonder if we ever did […] It takes a lifetime to love someone.” This is the type of wisdom that only comes with age, perhaps why Michelle’s dialogue often feels so naive compared to that of her parent’s generation.
While the parents don’t meet each other until 50 minutes into the film, the audience is already acquainted with their affairs. The film spends time developing the characters and their dynamics with one another so that the jokes of the situation pay off later. The cast is truly astounding, particularly Sarandon, who plays a disruptive and vivacious woman who knows what she wants. She and Gere steal the show, but Keaton and Macy have a lovely and quiet sensibility about them. The veteran actors are captivating to watch on screen; they are comfortable and confident in themselves and their talent, acting circles around Roberts and Bracey. They have excellent chemistry with one another, plus many of them have worked together previously — Keaton and Gere in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Sarandon and Gere in Shall We Dance?, and Keaton and Sarandon in The Big Wedding.
Roberts is, unfortunately, the weakest link in Maybe I Do, but she is given the worst lines, and her and Bracey’s characters are fairly bland, with limited screen time to show more facets of their relationship. The pair have some chemistry but do better in the 2020 holiday rom-com, Holidate. Roberts does get a well-written monologue to deliver eventually, in which she shines. While it is at the expense of these characters, it’s refreshing that the film doesn’t solely focus on young people. Jacobs’ script highlights how much older people still have feelings and desires; they are people just as they always were. The film truly connects different generations through common ground, where we can all learn a thing or two from each other.
Nothing stands out about the filmmaking. It’s so well-made that we don’t notice it, which is precisely the right call for Maybe I Do. Our attention is on the characters and what they have to say as Jacobs’ film asks deeper questions about reaching an age where your time left is numbered and questioning the best use of that time. The film explores themes of love vs. marriage and how relationships always include good and bad aspects but remind us of the importance of hanging on to the best parts of our lives. The writing around these themes is excellent, plus there’s a lot of genuine heart and humour here that people of all ages can relate to. Maybe I Do gets off to a rocky start, but it very quickly finds its footing — it’s a shame that the title is not very memorable.
Maybe I Do opened in cinemas in the US on 27th January
by Toni Stanger
Toni Stanger is a film and screenwriting graduate with a passion for cats, horror films and middle-aged actresses. Her favourite films include Gone Girl, Heathers, Scream and Excision. You can find her on Twitter and Letterboxd.
Categories: Anything and Everything, Films, Reviews
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