There’s no meeting cute in Meet Cute, and that’s kind of the whole point. The film, which takes its name from the romantic comedy about which two people meet in an unusual way that makes for a good story rarely seen in real life, owes as much, if not more, to Groundhog Day . Just like in “When Harry Met Sally…,” Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson are the wannabe couple in Alex Lehmann’s time warp rom-com, which might as well have been called “500 First Dates” for its portrayal of a lovesick woman on the monomaniac Trying to do everything right. The film itself is more revealing than its heroine and draws much of its charm from a performance that is well rehearsed on many levels.
What appears to be Sheila (Cuoco) and Gary’s (Davidson) first night together unfolds over nearly 30 minutes of screen time and is in the “Before Sunrise” vein of walk-and-talk romance in which the two open up to one another as people seem to only be able to do when they have just met someone who is new and attractive. They venture from bar to restaurant to ice cream truck while alluding to and downplaying how into each other they are, but there are signs that something is, if not wrong, then certainly odd: Sheila will finish Gary’s sentence before he can or predict, that something happens just before it happens. That would be far more effective if Sheila hadn’t jokingly but seriously revealed that she’s a time traveler within minutes of sadly meeting him—like an over-sharer on a first date, “Meet Cute” can’t help but to give away too much too soon.
There is a twist, however: Sheila is not compelled to relive that night through forces beyond her control, nor does she voluntarily return there to correct a past mistake and ensure they get off on the right foot. She does it because she believes the only place to go from a perfect night is downstairs, into the mess of a warts-and-all relationship, and she’d rather be stuck in an enduring honeymoon. She tells Gary this more or less at the end of each night, figuring it can’t hurt since he won’t remember what she said next time he meets. She has a bit of humorous hopelessness, ditto the fact that her time machine is actually a tanning bed in the back room of her favorite nail salon.
The number of headlines generated by Davidson’s romantic involvements certainly dwarfs those related to his films, which is a shame. He essentially plays himself in Big Time Adolescence, The King of Staten Island, and even Bodies Bodies Bodies, yes, but at least he does it well. That’s the case here, too, although the Saturday Night Live graduate is less impressive than in the past, if only because he’s still not doing anything we haven’t already seen him do. (He even starred in an “SNL” skit called “Meet Cute” with Kristen Stewart five years ago.) The real star is Cuoco, who strikes a fruitful middle ground between charming and acidic that will sound familiar to anyone who has a hilarious friend whose sense of humor acts as a defense mechanism. Her pain becomes more apparent with each scene, culminating in the revelation of what she was really doing when she stumbled upon her time machine.
Though masked by humor, that premise is inherently sad, at least since “Groundhog Day.” Otherwise, Bill Murray’s character would not have spent so much time escaping his 24-hour prison by insulting himself. “Meet Cute” is more prone to that sadness than its predecessors and is better suited to it. Whether you view Claire’s actions as romantic, obsessive, or both, there’s no denying that it’s not coming from the healthiest of places. This gives the film more depth than the average rom-com, but it also creates a sonic friction that’s never fully resolved.
Just as their first date magic feels forced, a result not of natural chemistry but of the fact that Sheila has rehearsed it countless times, so does the film’s. Given the deception and obsession behind it, should we actually commit to making this romance work? Cuouco keeps surprising us, but the answers are not entirely satisfactory. In fact, it can be difficult not to wonder if Meet Cute exists only because Peacock wanted to repeat Hulu’s Palm Springs success, ironically forgetting one of the genre’s key messages: that perfect moments can’t be forced and they have to let it happen on their own.
https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/meet-cute-review-kaley-cuoco-pete-davidson-1235382433/ ‘Meet Cute’ Review: Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson’s Time-Loop Rom-Com