The Big Picture
- I Want You Back captures the romantic comedy formula that Nora Ephron reinvented, with sharp dialogue, charming characters, and honest discussions about love and romance.
- The film centers around a genuine connection between Emma and Peter, rather than relying on contrived concepts, making it refreshing and reminiscent of Ephron’s movies.
- The film features perfect dialogue, both witty and romantic, that captures genuine emotions and adds a touch of magic to the burgeoning relationship between Emma and Peter.
Nora Ephron was undoubtedly ahead of her time, crafting multi-faceted characters, and witty, genuinely affecting rom-coms. Since the likes of When Harry Met Sally…, many films have been inspired by Ephron’s groundbreaking writing, trying to emulate its addictive style to greater or lesser success. For those craving a new addition which encapsulates the romantic comedy formula that Ephron reinvented, consisting of sharp dialogue, charming characters, and honest discussions about love and romance, I Want You Back (2022) directed by Jason Orley is the film to watch.
Starring Jenny Slate, who has been confirmed to appear in the adaptation of It Ends With Us, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day, I Want You Back establishes itself with talented leading actors, and ends as strongly — and as unexpectedly — as it begins, in delightful ways that would win over any Nora Ephron fan.
‘I Want You Back’ Centers Genuine Connection
Similar to the likes of You’ve Got Mail, I Want You Back is not a contrived rom-com that relies on outlandish concepts to advance the plot or challenge the main characters. Instead, the main driver of the plot is the central characters’ natural connection. The storyline is that Emma (Slate) and Peter (Day) have a chance meeting after both have been recently dumped by their exes, Noah (Scott Eastwood) and Anne (Gina Rodriguez). Both are completely heartbroken, and they discuss both their respective desires to win back their ex-partners and their trepidation of seeing their social media updates. Inspiration strikes, and they hatch a plan to help each other reunite with their exes, via imaginative and hilarious means. However, aligning with Ephron’s classic strategy, it is not an overly orchestrated obstacle which makes the movie shine, but Emma and Peter’s organic connection.
Moreover, despite the pair’s deepening bond, romance is not integral to their encounters; friendship is. This approach is refreshing and sweet, without being cutesy or saccharine. The departure this makes from an unoriginal, tired formula evokes Ephron’s movies, and Emma and Peter navigate their friendship and heartache as their true selves, getting to know one another on an intimate level. This friendship especially shines when the two “Sadness Sisters” honestly debate the best strategies for winning back each other’s partners. Their openness is in no way mean-spirited and instead is vastly enjoyable to watch, paving the way to their healthy relationship and genuine attachment.
‘I Want You Back’ Employs Perfect Dialogue
The legacy of Ephron’s films has echoed through the decades, often channeled via her iconically sharp and witty lines of dialogue. Who hasn’t heard of the famous line, “I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich,” which Harry (Billy Crystal) delivers so sincerely to Sally (Meg Ryan) at the end of When Harry Met Sally…? I Want You Back is no different in its witty script, perceptively crafted by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. Whilst the two are poring over their exes’ social media posts, Emma states woefully that it’s “like a mean prank,” that Noah’s new girlfriend Ginny (Clark Backo) is pretty, accomplished, and romantically fulfilled. Many of us would not readily admit to harboring these aggrieved assessments of other people’s lives, which makes her authentic admission all the more human and sympathetic.
It also has to be acknowledged that some of the film’s most memorable dialogue is deeply romantic. Like Harry’s speech to Sally, these quotable lines are lovely because they capture something true about our romantic hopes and needs. In I Want You Back, Emma explains to Peter her childhood concept of an “Airplane safety mask person,” which refers to loving a person so much that you reject safety guidelines to heroically put their mask on before yours, in the event of crisis on a plane. Peter matches this sentiment later in the movie, admitting to her that she is his “slow burn,” a love which does not strike straight away but is more meaningful for it. These memorable moments are a testament to the writing and infuse the burgeoning relationship with magic.
Fully Fleshed Characters Straight From an Ephron Rom-Com
Often in clichéd heterosexual rom-coms, the female character is reduced to a hopeless romantic, and the male character is detached and emotionally unavailable until the “right girl” comes along. But in Ephron’s world, she reworks these familiar tropes, using them to enrich the movie, whilst imbuing her characters with human and relatable quirks. Sleepless in Seattle, for instance, explores the impact the rom-com genre has on Meg Ryan’s character’s real life, as she uproots it in pursuit of love. In fact, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks only share one scene together, in favor of allowing their characters to evolve in the meantime.
I Want You Back similarly focuses on character development. Its main message is that Emma and Peter need to grow as people — and during its run, they help each other to do so. Peter gifts Emma a book about finding her passion, and Emma helps Peter to become more confident in his dreams of opening an ethical retirement home. Even in the last scene of I Want You Back, in which they are flying back from a wedding, they are not happily together, as the main focus has been on their development as characters — enabled via their real connection. But when the plane experiences turbulence, Peter instinctively reacts selflessly, jumping across the aisle to put Emma’s safety mask on before his, thus actualizing Emma’s dream. The film ends with the two beaming at one another from behind their masks, as it seems their individual growth has come to fruition in finding someone who is truly worthy, platonic or not. Like Sleepless in Seattle, the film has taken a classic format, turned it on its head to focus on developing the characters, and then wrapped the story up with a truly enchanting — although ingeniously ambiguous — ending.
I Want You Back is available to watch on Amazon Prime.