‘Love in the Villa’: Netflix meets Hallmark Channel

There are some romantic comedies that will stay with me all my life, like “While You Were Sleeping” and “Music and Lyrics.” And I’m not saying those are the best. They are not as popular or critically successful as “Crazy Rich Asians.” It’s just the ones that resonate with me. “Love in the Villa” won’t be on my list, but that doesn’t mean it’s an inherently bad movie, or that it won’t be on anyone’s list.

When it comes to genres, romantic comedy might be one of the most subjective. All movies are subjective, of course. But the more I watch, the more I find that rom-coms, as a genre, are a bit more subjective than the rest.

Every fan of romantic comedies has a few titles that transcend the word “favorite.” They have a couple of cozy movies that connect with the heart on a deeper level and create the unique feeling of comfort that allows them to snuggle up on the couch with a fluffy blanket, a glass of wine, and a pair of slippers.

These are movies where the Rotten Tomatoes score is unspoken language and the opinion of others is debatable. I’m talking about movies about love that form individual relationships with their audience members. I think that is abnormal.

As for Netflix’s latest rom-com “Love in the Villa,” it looks like the streaming giant reached into its spice cabinet and added a sprinkling of Hallmark. Except this isn’t a Christmas movie.

The story follows a Minneapolis third-grade teacher named Julie (Kat Graham) who is obsessed with “Romeo and Juliet.” She saves for years and plans the perfect trip to Verona, Italy with her boyfriend, when suddenly he dumps her right before the trip.

Determined to have fun, Julie arrives in Italy after a 22-hour drive from hell filled with screaming babies and lost luggage. Finally, at her villa where she hopes to get some rest, Julie is shocked to find a half-naked British man named Charlie (Tom Hopper) in the space she rented. Turns out the one bedroom villa is double booked.

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And that provides the setup for this little story. It is not dramatic or original. But I appreciate that the movie doesn’t try to make the narrative more than it is. Allow the main characters to take the lead and be what ultimately makes or breaks the story.

Charlie is in town to work on a wine festival and Julie is trying to get to all these romantic Romeo and Juliet tours as well as some of the typical tourist attractions. The pair try to kick each other out of the villa by going to war with pranks until they get too intense and the police arrive, er, the polizia.

From there, most people can probably guess where the story goes. The couple hit it off, spend time together, and slowly but surely grow closer. As I said, “Love in the Villa” is not serving up a new recipe. He’s not trying to break through into new territory. It knows exactly what it is, a simple and cozy romantic comedy.

Some of the jokes dovetail nicely with Charlie’s dry British sass and Julie’s initial lack of fortune. Other moments feel a bit forced. Fortunately, those moments don’t last long and the movie moves on.

The main force of “Love in the Villa” comes from Graham and Hopper. It took me a little longer to get to these characters because I kept watching Bonnie the witch from “The Vampire Diaries” and the number one strongman from another popular Netflix title, “Umbrella Academy.” And since I only immediately recognized Hopper in that title, I had no idea that he was actually English.

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When I finally settled into “Love in the Villa,” I saw that Graham and Hopper actually made a cute couple. They’re not Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman, but they get the job done for this particular title. And that brings me back to my original point.

I truly believe in increasing the subjectivity of rom-coms for fans of the genre. Because normally, if you survey Western fans and ask them what the best Western title is, I think you’ll find a handful of common titles (and “The Magnificent Seven” from 1960 would probably be among them). If you were to ask psychological thriller fans what the best psychological thriller is, again, you’d find a handful of common titles, “The Silence of the Lambs” probably among them.

But if someone did this same experiment among rom-com fans, I don’t think there would be as much of a consensus. Every rom-com fan would have their own favorites, and I bet there would be more off-the-field selections than one commonly believes. Case in point… “While you were sleeping.” How many rom-com fans have that at #1 on their list? (If it’s yours, feel free to email me at [email protected] to tell me. We can exchange thoughts about Sandra Bullock.)

“Love in the Villa” comes with the added bonus of beautiful cinematography by José David Montero. And while I don’t often write about wardrobes in movies, Graham’s outfits were just as beautiful as she wore them. Kudos to Giovanni Lipari’s costume design. It’s not often that I notice outfits in a movie enough to comment on them.

People looking for a comfortable romantic comedy should find exactly what they are looking for in “Love in the Villa.” It is already available on Netflix.

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