As formulaic as they come, but …
Romantic comedies have the uncanny ability to entertain despite following a strict formula. I mean, outside of the truly horrible or the few noteworthy examples – The Princess Bride is still great, years later – most seem to tell the exact same story. Yet, fans still enjoy watching desperate characters haphazardly fall in love amidst a chaotic backdrop. I guess that’s why I somewhat enjoyed Netflix’s Set It Up.
Directed by Claire Scanlon and written by Katie Silberman, Set It Up is about two overworked assistants name Harper and Charlie (played by Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell respectively). Harper is an aspiring writer who hoped to break into the industry by taking a job under her idol Kirsten, the head editor of a major sports outlet. Charlie looks to be just as successful as his venture capitalist boss Rick by working his way up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, their bosses are extremely demanding, inconsiderate people. Rick requires Charlie to wait on him hand and foot, forgoing his relationships with friends and such. Kirsten, on the other hand, tends to change her mind on difficult errands the moment Harper completes them. Both are being run ragged, often staying late to do some absurd task – early on, Harper is told to run around the office wearing a tracker so Katie can show her trainer she’s hit her goal of 10,000 steps between sessions.
As one can imagine, life sucked for Harper and Charlie. Neither had the time to do much of anything besides be excellent assistants, a fact made more apparent after their initial meeting; they shared a similar task that resulted in less than chivalrous behavior. Though they got off on the wrong foot, bumping into each other puts the film’s premise in motion. You see, Harper believed that Kirsten was so career oriented because she didn’t have someone special in her life. And everyone felt that Rick just needed to unwind a little (read get laid) in order to snap out of his funk. Basically, they realized that an office romance between their bosses could be mutually beneficial. If they could get Rick and Kirsten to focus on each other, they’d take their jerkiness down a few notches. Or at the very least, let Harper and Charlie clock out before nightfall.
It doesn’t take long to see where the story is going. Manipulative behavior that leads to a moral conundrum, an odd pairing that just seems to work, character growth that isn’t really earned but feels good anyway – all of it plays out in predictable ways. What keeps things interesting is seeing how these characters interact with one another while moving towards the inevitable conclusion. This is especially true with Harper. Zoey Deutch does a great job of playing the energetic assistant, her infectious charm and slight awkwardness making her scenes with just about anyone compelling to watch. Glen Powell’s Charlie is also entertaining. His bluntness and penchant for corny one-liners often produced a smile, if not the occasional chuckle. Lucy Liu’s role as Kirsten is somewhat refreshing given her most recent work. Her comedic timing is spot on whenever she’s with Zoey. Taye Diggs is mostly subdued as Rick, though he does have a few humorous moments as well (namely when he’s throwing a tantrum and failing to properly destroy his office).
Set It Up isn’t especially great nor does it offer anything we haven’t seen before. I doubt anyone’s going to swoon over the onscreen romance. It isn’t wildly funny either, with only a few scenes worthy of a chuckle or two. That said, I did enjoy watching the cast dive into familiar territory. It was almost like comfort food in that it scratched a nostalgic itch/provided a decent experience that was enjoyable despite having seen better elsewhere.