Not Much Thought Behind This Idea

May 5, 2024

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Screen chemistry is a delicate thing. It can’t be defined, only experienced. Put two actors together on the screen, have them read a bit of dialogue together, and it’s immediately apparent whether or not they belong together on the screen. It’s not just for romantic scenes, either. Screen chemistry is just as crucial between a good guy and a bad guy, between friends and enemies, and, these days, between an actor and the to-be-added-in-post CGI being they’re interacting with. If the audience doesn’t believe in the chemistry, the connection fails, the scene fails, and, ultimately, the movie fails.

The Idea of You is a complete failure because there is no chemistry between the two leads; worse, their void of believability creates a black hole of chemistry that sucks the life out of the audience every time they appear together on the screen. 

In the film, Ann Hathaway plays Solène, the 40-year-old owner of a successful art gallery, and Nicholas Galitzine plays Hayes, the 24-year-old lead singer of a bland boy band called August Moon. After meeting in a trailer in the VIP section at Coachella, Hayes tracks Solène down to her gallery, hoping he can fan the sparks he felt when he first met her into a romantic bonfire. Or get into Solène’s pants. He doesn’t seem to know the difference. Or care. And his “I’m just a regular guy” act fools no one, especially when he enters her gallery and buys everything—every piece of art in the building. He then asks to see more because he has a big house in London that needs decorating. For a pickup line, it’s about as sleazy and condescending as you will ever hear from a 24-year-old pop star.

(Author’s note: Watch this clip from Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters for a much funnier and more believable interchange between an artist and a pop star.)

For her part, Solène offers a weak defense about not getting involved with a younger man, but it never really convinces him or the audience. She does an even worse job trying to make everyone, especially herself, believe the relationship is authentic as the movie plods along to its annoyingly inevitable happy ending.

To her credit, Hathaway tries to make it work, but there is only so much an Oscar-winning actress can do to breathe life into a DOA mess like The Idea of You. The best scene in the movie, in terms of honesty and believability, is a solo bit by Hathaway as Solène sums up what’s the worst thing that can happen when you open up to someone with a raw remembering of what happened to her life when she found out her husband had been unfaithful. It’s the best 2 minutes and 54 seconds of the film because it’s the only scene that pulls you in and captures your imagination and emotions entirely. But it’s over too soon, and it never happens again.


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