As we all know, Netflix is super hit-or-miss when it comes to their Originals. For every Stranger Things there’s a Tall Girl to remind us that the streaming service isn’t as all-powerful as they’d like us to believe. Especially when it comes to their made-for-Netflix romantic comedies, the quality often veers closer to a Hallmark Channel movie than something for the big screen. Going into new Netflix rom com Love in the Villa, I was expecting it to be terrible. And I was right…at first. By the end, it totally had me. Here’s why.
This plot reminds me of something…
Love in the Villa finds American Julie traveling to Verona, Italy to visit all of the Romeo and Juliet spots. This includes watching the secretaries of Juliet answering letters from the tragic heroine to people who leave notes in the wall below her balcony. Unfortunately, her trip is thrown off course when she meets an abrasive British man who thinks the romantic notion of fate is utter foolishness.
If this plot sounds familiar, then you’re probably like me: A fan of the Amanda Seyfried rom-com Letters to Juliet (2010). The above description could be said about both movies. They both have Romeo and Juliet-loving Americans coming to Verona, and pessimistic English men (coincidentally both named Charlie) they can’t help falling for. But where Letters to Juliet finds the pair driving all over Italy to find his grandmother’s lost love, Love in the Villa has the pair double-booked at a villa while they’re hell-bent on running each other off.
Here’s the thing: Letters to Juliet is better. Unequivocally. Especially in the first half, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d be better off watching the 2010 Amanda Seyfried film than Love in the Villa. And that’s largely to do with the difference in tone.
Netflix and their requirements that the actors over-act.
As is usually the case for Netflix Original rom-coms, Love in the Villa goes heavy on the comedy. Unfortunately, Netflix’s idea of comedy is slapstick shenanigans, poorly done CGI, and intense overacting. As I sat munching pickle spears and watching this new romantic comedy, I couldn’t help groaning every time the main character, Julie (Kat Graham), would make an exaggerated face at villa-mate Charlie (Tom Hopper). Their interactions felt so over-the-top as to feel completely unrealistic, especially as they were at-war with each other, trying to drive the other off from staying at the villa.
It’s a vibe that’s been the downfall of many of Netflix’s rom-coms, like the aforementioned Tall Girl, along with Love, Guaranteed. It’s not the fault of the actors though. I’ve seen them do compelling, sincere performances in other films. They must just be goaded into acting foolish for these roles.
But…even with the silliness of the first half of Love in the Villa, I liked it in the end.
The chemistry got me in the end.
Julie and Charlie mellow out on the theatrics as the movie goes on. In the final act of Love in the Villa, their chemistry is so apparent–especially from Tom Hopper, who’s great at looking longingly at the object of his affection. And it’s that chemistry that had me squeaking when the pair finally choose each other. (This is barely a spoiler. This is a rom-com after all. You know what’s going to happen.)
For me, a chemistry-filled, romantic ending can make up for a world of sins. While I can’t say that this is Netflix’s best original romantic comedy (that honor goes to Always Be My Maybe), Love in the Villa is still a nice entry when you’re in the mood for a cute romance that ends well. You just have to give it an hour before it starts to really get good.