This is formulaic in the basics: two people repel each other, fall in love, have a complicating development, profess love in some public, dramatic way and are reconciled. Such things usually depend on the appeal of the characters and the supporting comedy.
But I think this has something else going for it. It grabbed me in a place these things usually don’t, and that may be it. It has to do with what we think drives romance. In the genre standard, it is physical attraction, followed immediately by mutual charm. That’s all it takes, and all that follows is to protect that attraction. “50 First Dates” takes this to an extreme. The underlying idea we love is that some preordained soulmate is out there and you will know when finding it. Some spidey sense kicks in. This movie subverts that. Our guy has relationships. When he meets the woman who will be the girl of his dreams, they hate each other. This is stock in the genre. But then we have a trading places event. What follows is the simple act of living together. The challenges are exaggerated for comedic theatrics, but we recognise these lives. The simple act of being together in situations makes the love.
The filmmakers understand that it is the situation that matters, so they fill it in with children, friends and ethnic culture. The children have to be girls or this wouldn’t matter. The culture has to be one that overtly values family.
The woman here isn’t the prettiest, or wittiest or even very genuine. She’s a somewhat damaged widow with mother issues. The love grows organically from situation rather than instantly from physical attributes. That’s the special thing that works here.
Posted in 2019
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.