Netflix is known for producing a slew of romantic comedies of questionable quality – think “The Kissing Booth” – that turn into funny, ugly binge watches. Unfortunately, “Love in the Villa,” released on Netflix on September 1, doesn’t even fall into that category, delivering a negative and boring viewing experience.
The film follows Julie Hutton (Kat Graham), a third grade English teacher obsessed with “Romeo and Juliet”. His obsession with her includes a desire to travel to Verona, Italy, where the play is set, with her boyfriend Brandon (Raymond Ablack). But the two split up shortly before their planned trip to the Italian city. She decides to leave alone, but she soon discovers that her romantic mansion is double with wine importer Charlie Fletcher (Tom Hopper). Their initially contradictory relationship then follows the typical trope of “lovers’ enemies”.
The big problem with this film is that there is no reason why Julie and Charlie are enemies, or even dislike each other. For some reason, as soon as Julie enters the mansion, Charlie is mean to her. Sure, you can try to attribute his attitude to double booking annoyance, but Charlie’s huge amount of gratuitous meanness is hard to understand. Effective examples of an “enemies for lovers” plot begin with a well-established reason why the main characters don’t like each other, as in “Purple Hearts”, where the two eventual lovers have different political opinions, or in “The Hating Game” where they are going for the same promotion at work. But “Love in the Villa” fails to create a credible point of conflict between the two main characters, instead attempting to use jokes and hatred to create the same effect.
Charlie and Julie’s characters, as well as their chemistry, don’t do much to save the film.
Charlie is bland and generic. It seems the writers used artificial intelligence to produce a hot British male lead. While the writers try to tell him a sad backstory, he doesn’t do much to make Charlie interesting. Meanwhile, Kat Graham delivers a charismatic performance that makes Julie a likeable character. However, she doesn’t hide the fact that she and Tom Hopper have no chemistry.
Just as it is not explained why they hate each other, it is also not explained why they start to like each other. Literally, one day they throw pasta dishes at each other and fight constantly, and the next they confess their love.
While some light-hearted rom-coms can get away with these plot holes, “Love in the Villa” can’t because it simply doesn’t have much else to offer. The attempt to create a romantic setting in Verona and the constant references of the film to “Romeo and Juliet” do not help. The aura of the famous comedy is not strong enough to create a romantic atmosphere, even though Charlie and Julie’s mansion is located right in front of Casa Di Giulietta, the house with the balcony that inspired the famous Shakespearean scene. The film desperately tries to connect “Romeo and Juliet” to the story of Charlie and Julie. But unsurprisingly, it barely works – in the end it seems a bit pitiful to put one of the world’s most passionate love stories alongside this generic attempt at romance.
Also, the only thing the Italian setting does is offer some nice shots. All the Italian characters are exaggerated and cartoonish, exemplified by mediocre puns like a taxi driver named Uber-to. He should be carefree, but he turns out to be uninteresting. There are far better romantic comedies, such as “Eat, Pray, Love” and even one of Netflix’s latest, “Love & Gelato”, which are set in Italy and use the Italian setting as more than just a gimmick. .
Netflix hasn’t confirmed a sequel. Considering the minimal press and tepid reviews the film is receiving, it’s hard to believe this romance will get a second chance. It’s probably best to stick with some of Netflix’s most established romantic comedies for your binged watches and let “Love in the Villa” fall into the depths of Netflix’s catalog.