Netflix’s new rom-com answers the unneeded question: What if When Harry Met Sally were actually When Harry Hated Sally?
Love, Guaranteed tells the story of Seattle man Nick Evans (Damon Wayans Jr., of New Girl), who sues a dating website that promised he’d find love if he went on 1,000 dates. After a broken engagement and 986 bad dates, Evan enlists the help of struggling lawyer Susan Whitaker (Rachael Leigh Cook) to win his case. Spoiler alert: They fall in love, which threatens to ruin his legal standing — and the image that he was a victim of the fraudulent belief in everlasting love.
This flick is seriously contrived. (Sorry, Cook. Love you, but this is no Josie and the Pussycats.) It’s derivative of Nora Ephron’s classics without the smart dialogue and chock full of rom-com cliches instead. We know Whitaker is quirky because the driver’s-seat-door handle on her broken-down Volkswagen comes off every time she drives. So, naturally, she just tosses the rusting piece of metal into her purse as she walks into the courthouse, where there are always metal detectors. (Don’t ask me why I know the layout of a courthouse.)
Still, the film is worth your time for one reason only: Love, Guaranteed shows us what happens when an incel (or at least a Netflix-friendly incel type) is reformed.
Incels are “involuntarily celibate” men who blame women for not granting them romance and sex. We don’t know if Evans is getting laid during his dating marathons, but suing a multibillion-dollar company because your ex-fiancé broke your heart is some toxic masculinity masquerading as a capitalist takedown. The entitlement!
Nick meticulously documents each date, but he remembers the women only by a singular negative trait: the one who talked about cats all night, the one who brought her parents on the date, the one who needed a date to her sister’s wedding, the one who got drunk and tried to fight the busboy… and so on. Honestly, these women caught a lucky break. If I were any of them, I’d certainly break it off with the guy who goes on 1,000(!) dates and comes up with an elaborate theory blaming anyone but himself for why they’re not working out.
Also, a personal quibble: Nick hates pumpkin spice lattes. Not because they’re overdone, he just doesn’t like that it’s not made of actual pumpkin. As if honesty matters for a guy who doesn’t see that wearing burgundy crewnecks and sweaters for most of the film is not a personality!
If movies were still direct-to-DVD, Love, Guaranteed would’ve had its big premiere in the bargain-bin section of Ace Hardware. But thanks to Netflix, bad rom-coms (of which this film is certainly one) have found a lasting and titanic platform. Love, Guaranteed is currently the fifth-most-popular film on Netflix. While the subscription service rarely releases ratings, it’s not far off to assume this rom-com is faring better than most films opening in theaters right now.
Given the high-profile nature of what is really just a Hallmark movie (Props to you, Cook, for getting that Netflix check), it’s kind of miraculous that Love, Guaranteed has come to us in a time when there is so much content to consume. But the “so bad it’s good” quality is perhaps why the film has found an audience.
Of course, Netflix’s mysterious algorithm also helps. The streaming service has a monopoly on rom-com B movies: Consider the viral hits To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Always Be My Maybe and A Christmas Prince. I haven’t yet called my brother’s girlfriend, who loved Vanessa Hudgens in The Knight Before Christmas, but I’ll put money down that she absolutely adored the romance of Love, Guaranteed.
The thing is, in a pandemic, we’ll watch anything on Netflix — no matter the quality. Tiger King, Selling Sunset and Outer Banks are three of the breakout hits of 2020, all thanks to the streaming giant. It’s not because they’re original; they’re full of bad acting and cringe characters. But having shows to watch while dumbfounded, wondering how this ever got made, is the distraction we’ll settle for right now.
When the world is quite literally burning while fighting off a pandemic, it makes sense that all we want to do is spend an hour and a half in a world deeply removed from reality — a place where Seattle skies look normal, humans can actually be in the same space and a guy who looks like Wayans Jr. has a hard time landing a second date.