Romantic comedies come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, they even crossbreed with other genres. Science fiction is one that certainly contains a multitude of possibilities when paired with the rom-com. So, it’s interesting to look at how self-contained Meet Cute is. In tying together the rom-com with sci-fi trappings, the braintrust here has opted to keep things small. The high concept is pure genre, but the execution is contained, relying on the wit of the writing and the charm of the cast. Luckily, our protagonists are more than well equipped to lean into the weirdness of it all. This film is funny, romantic, and weird, but above all else, it’s clever.
Meet Cute has a very impressive ability to remain fresh throughout, even when the same date is repeatedly being depicted. There are elements of Groundhog Day and Palm Springs here, but the clearest influence is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Bold company to keep, to be sure. While the movie isn’t quite in the league of those classics, it more than holds its own.
When Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) sees Gary (Pete Davidson) across the bar, she looks at him in a way that suggests this isn’t just love, or lust, at first sight. She boldly approaches him and asks him out on a date. He’s happy to do it, though clocks how she knows exactly what he’s going to say at times, and remarks on how she loves certain things he believes he’s doing for the first time. Of course, there’s also the fact that she’s matter of factly stated that she’s a time traveler. Gary assumes she’s just loopy, but by the end of the night, he’s weirded out enough to end the date. Sheila, however, is non-plussed, as she’ll just do it again tomorrow. As we learn, she’s been doing it all week, with the help of a time machine she discovered in the back of a nail salon. Going back 24 hours, she’s slowly trying to have the perfect date with Gary.
As she continues to have the same night over and over again with Gary, Sheila eventually starts to get bored. Then, it occurs to her. Maybe she can travel further back and take away his painful past, smoothing out his rougher edges. Of course, nothing is that simple, and the more she tries to fix things, the worse it gets. Is there hope for these two? What’s going on in Sheila’s past? These are just some of the things we figure out as we watch this pair do the same date over and over.
Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson are an unlikely rom-com pairing, but their comedic chops serve them well. Davidson underplays some of his weirder tendencies, leading to one of his best straight roles to date. You never feel like only he could play the part, but it’s well done, all the same. Cuoco, however, is the real standout. Not only does she have great comic timing, she hints at so many deeper and even depressive traits, elevating the character. The tiny supporting cast includes Kevin Corrigan and Deborah S. Craig, but it’s all about Cuoco and Davidson. Together, they’re one of the more compelling screen couples of the year.
Director Alex Lehmann and writer Noga Pnueli deserve a lot of credit for wringing a ton of mileage out of a very limited scope. Lehmann keeps the focus on the clever writing by Pnueli and the performances from Cuoco and Davidson. What easily could have become fairly numbing and repetitive in Meet Cute remains fresh due to all involved. They’re each firing on all cylinders, allowing the premise to really shine through.
Meet Cute is a clever and lovely little surprise. There’s romance and smarts on display, as well as the best film vehicle for Cuoco to date. Especially if you’re going into this one with low expectations, prepare to be impressed. There’s much more here than meets the eye!