Film Review: It Had to Be You

This silly romantic comedy may find an audience among the 30-something crowd but will make little sense to anybody else.
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According to writer-director Sasha Gordon, when she, her BFFs and an assortment of other women (one assumes in their 30s) faced marriage proposals by long-term live-in lovers, they went into high-gear panic. The prospect of a commitment was daunting. They all felt like sellouts who had not achieved their ambitions, and the wedding ceremony was simply the final nail in the coffin. Also, their aspirations were defined (depending on decade) by such films as Pretty Woman, Sex and the City, Thelma and Louise and Eat Pray Love.

Really?

Well, sometimes you just have to take things at face value. With this film, it’s hard. Still, if you buy into Gordon’s assertions, her romantic comedy It Had to Be You might prove a mildly diverting, if at moments off-putting, effort that turns clichéd gender expectations and behavior on their head (e.g., men want marriage, women don’t) and believes explicit dramatizations of sexual and toilet activities is at once an authentic, humorous and charming aesthetic.

Played by a wide-eyed Cristin Milioti, resembling a waif right out of Keene painting, Sonia is a kooky jingle writer whose sights are set on a glamorous life. When her likeable boyfriend Chris (Dan Soder), with whom she’s already living, proposes marriage and gives her a three-day ultimatum to make up her mind, she’s in tailspin mode made all the more intense as she observes a sophisticated-looking woman in the subway reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. That does it. Off she goes to Rome to “evolve,” as she tells Chris.

In the stunningly irritating memoir/film that sets Sonia aflutter, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) is a successful writer married to a devoted husband and living in an upscale home. But for reasons that are not discernible, she is dissatisfied with her lot (most women would be thrilled with it) and decides she must break free to find herself. The answer: traveling abroad with no time restrictions and endless cash at her disposal. She lands in Rome, where she overeats excessively, thrilling in her calorie-laden liberation; moves on to India to explore her hitherto untapped spiritual nature; and finally on to Bali to meet up with the new love of her life (Javier Bardem).

Gordon attempts to present the scenario a little more realistically, and kudos to her for that, though the result is predictable too. In Rome, Sonia wolfs down two ice-cream cones at once and rides a merry-go-round, her arms joyously flung out to either side like airplane wings (that’s emancipation) before encountering an attractive lothario who turns out to be a con artist.

For the rest of the film, she’s back in New York trying to make amends to Chris, culminating in a scene right out of When Harry Met Sally…, only in this instance it’s the woman charging through the streets of New York tracking down her true love.

The cast is fleshed out with Sonia and Chris’ sidekicks, including an opinionated pregnant gal (Halley Feiffer), her bumbling, well-intentioned fiancé (Mark Gessner) and their midwife (Kyle Mooney), the latter an amusing high point in an otherwise foolish trifle that doesn’t warrant too much analysis.

Still, there’s an elephant in the room: Chris’ love for Sonia. It makes no sense at all and their marriage would be doomed from the get-go.

Click here for cast and crew information.