Sam (Justin Long) is a young Brooklyn-dweller who writes movie novelizations for a living (wait, what). But he yearns to write something that just means something, you know? And then he believes he’s found his muse: a quirky (oh no) barista (NO) named Birdie (oh god), played by Evan Rachel Wood. But when Birdie is fired, Sam is bereft of an excuse to see her. So he Facebook stalks her, learns all her likes, dislikes, and interests, tailors everything about himself so that he appears to share those qualities, and waits for a good opportunity to engineer another meeting. This becomes a problem when they begin a relationship, and Sam has to maintain a facade of enjoying things he hates, like rock climbing, or things he knows nothing about, like the Galapagos Islands.
It’s some kind of miracle that I didn’t react to the movie with sulphuric detestation. The script–written by Long, his brother Christian and his co-star Keir O’Donnell–has at least a smidge of self-awareness. In one late scene, Sam delivers a manuscript based on his life to his editors, and they rave to his horrified face about the unlikability of the protagonist. The story at least condemns the kind of self-obsession that is usually taken for granted in indie rom-com protagonists. Still, the love interest is named Birdie.
Sam is perturbed by how getting to know the real Birdie pulls apart his assumptions about her, not because he dislikes what he learns, but because it renders meaningless the persona that he carefully fabricated to woo her. There’s a grain of truth in A Case of You, and the film edges towards making a genuine statement about how the internet has affected honesty and communication in relationships. It doesn’t, though. And it really needed to at least acknowledge how damn creepy Sam’s actions are in the beginning.
The movie doesn’t evoke any strong feeling, though. It wafts along on a breezy, relaxed tone. Long and Wood have pleasant chemistry together, and Long is able to channel Sam’s borderline insanity without becoming unsympathetic, even if he never earns the audience’s love. Wood is, impressively, able to channel a “free spirit” without being gratingly cutesy. Birdie isn’t some kind of manic pixie dream girl, even if she is named Birdie (good grief). Then again, that character type has been so thoroughly dissected by popular culture that we’re unlikely to see straight examples of the cliche too often anymore.
A Case of You neither offends nor invigorates. It’s not a bad time, but I wouldn’t call it fully worthwhile, either. If the movie managed to inspire even an iota of investment in whether or not Sam and Birdie (ugh) would end up together, I’d call it a perfectly adequate date night rental. But it’s too insubstantial for that, so it just sort of is – a nice enough thing.
And did I mention they named her Birdie?