Love on Repeat - 2019
Original premiere (France) August 21, 2019
A girl in a mid west town relives a bad day over and over again in a fashion similar to the better known Bill Murray/Andie MacDowell comedy Groundhog Day. The concept of a cinematic "relived day" has been around since before that famous film, though, such as the noir 1947 Repeat Performance featuring Joan Leslie reliving an entire year over, trying (often in vain) to avoid the tragic events of the original "performance."
Avoiding the seemingly predestined snafus and disappointments in Love on Repeat, is office-worker Amber's (played by Jen Lilley) mission, and while the earlier part of the film is rather dryly written, once the mechanism of a repeating day is created, Amber begins steadily developing skills to beat circumstances, has better lines and scenes, and much like Bill Murray's character (or Tom Cruise's in the military sci-fi version of this dilemma Live Die Repeat-Edge of Tomorrow) the repeating time frame gimmick starts to work in Amber's favor.
Though a comedy, bitterness haunts the early part of this movie as Amber is in a career funk, and is self-absorbed about the things she wants but can't get. Her sudden power to experience a single day over and over changes things, though, and eventually, after trial-and-error, she is able to achieve her personal career goals (and to learn how to avoid a certain heavily-frosted birthday cake which keeps slamming into her blouse unexpectedly, day after day). Amber's interactions with her co-workers (the best parts of this film take place in offices) forces her to realize a few things about other people, and about herself. As a lightly-done self-help exercise, Love on Repeat is effective for bringing into view what matters beyond nailing a contract or getting back a missing boyfriend.
Unfortunately, a good portion of the film is rather perfunctory, not counting the better written and more energetic (and funny) office segments, which is where the film excels. The rather simplified characters fit together perfectly for the repeating comedy with the same scenes repeating one-after-another with little derivations to build the jokes. Though a lot of the material is played for laughs in Love on Repeat, it does try to have a serious undertone at times, but this is also hit-and-miss, though Jen LIlley's handling of that through the expression of her evolving character is the only place the film achieves this aim with effectiveness.
To be fair, the ambition of Love on Repeat never tries to break out very far from Amber merely conquering her day (and herself), and in finding a pleasant conclusion for the various characters in the cast. By contrast, Groundhog Day put Bill Murray's character through a much rougher series of obstacles, from depression to despair to nihilism and then catharsis of the Hollywood enlightenment variety, but in both films, Amber (and Bill Murray) have to become better versions of themselves in order to find release. Murray goes about this project with a far larger budget at hand and the writing fueling his dialogue is polished and precise. Love on Repeat seems underdeveloped and far more primitive, but also with far more modest goals. Except for Jen Lilley's carrying a lot of the scenes and some of the office-worker episodes where group dynamics really help to liven up the actions and dialogue, this production plays it too safe and is too intent upon the march to the end credits and letting everything end "happily."
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