Do young people still make marriage pacts these days? You and your best platonic friend, for fear of being lonely for the rest of your lives, vow to marry one another if both are still single by the age of thirty. Are we still this desperate at thirty? Somehow, I think a convenient way for a guy to get out of the friend zone.Although twelve years is hardly convenient.
From writer/director Cat Rhinehart, Brand New Old Love is the story of Charlie (Arturo Castro) and Hannah (Aya Cash) who made this very pact. Years later, Charlie is a man-child working as a personal trainer in Los Angeles. Hannah is recently divorced and recently moved into her parents’ home, while she sorts things out.
Upon the birth of his brother’s first child, Charlie returns to Modesto and runs into Hannah at a local bar. The two former best friends pick up where they left off after separating after high school. While wandering the streets of Modesto, the two remember the good times and Charlie remembers their marriage pact. Seizing the impulsive moment, the two to get married…that night.
As you would surmise, everyone they know, along with conventional wisdom, thinks this is a bad idea. However, like a good romantic comedy, Rhinehart’s film doubles down on this bad idea and runs with it. Brand New Old Love answers the question if good friends make good partners.
“…a spouse is the only thing missing to make his life complete.”
Let’s start with the good. Charlie and Hannah are the right characters to make a horribly impulsive decision. Charlie has a comfortable life in L.A., and a spouse is the only thing missing to make his life complete. Hannah is thrust onto the dating scene once again and having no luck since she aged out at thirty.
There is some interesting relationship insight Rhinehart brings to her story. Charlie’s problem now is Hannah is not a cat that he can just let loose in the house. She’s a person with needs as desires, while Charlie refuses to be inconvenienced by her. Hannah, on the other hand, jumped into couplehood too fast and never considered the fact that Charlie did not mature into an adult at the same pace she did. This is how the relationship between the two plays out.
The biggest problem with Brand New Old Love is its lack of intensity. The humor and insight run at a steady level of seven with very little deviation. A good comedy should have it ramp up to nine or ten. For example, the next day after their wedding. Charlie returns to Los Angeles with wife Hannah in tow. Upon entering Charlie’s apartment for the first time, Hannah discovers Charlie has a roommate, Bruce (Josh Brener) and while surprised, Hannah concedes the fact she will live with Charlie and Bruce. Charlie, on the other hand, loves the fact, he’s now going to live with his two best friends. Charlie is just a little to dumb to realize that this is not normal. Hannah is just too OK with the situation.
“…get to it and blow up already. I call it ‘Waiting for the Inevitable’…”
What would have helped intensify the tension between Charlie and Hannah is turning up the heat on their differences. Slowly raise the intensity level to ten. Raising the stakes help keep the audience engaged in your story and characters. Instead, it just felt like they stretched out their internal conflict over 60 minutes until they two finally just had enough and wanted this suffering to end. Which is actually how I felt throughout the second act.
The other problem, the film pretty much telegraphs its ending and everything leading up to it. We all know at some point there’s going to be a huge fight, where Charlie and Hannah wonder if they made a big mistake. Which then leads to one of two endings will they or won’t they. However, the predicted finish happens way off in the third act and to piggy back off the last point, instead of the story’s resolution naturally occurring as a reaction to the events that lead up to it. The resolution came after both characters have an unplanned conversation with other supporting characters.
When you know what the ending is going to be, it makes us impatiently wade through the entire second act begging for the couple to get to it and blow up already. I call it “Waiting for the Inevitable.” Aya Cash gives a solid performance as Hannah. While performed well by Arturo Castro, Charlie’s naïve narcissisms came off as annoying, and while I know people, who are exactly like this, you want to slap some sense into them.
Brand New Old Love desperately needed a jolt of energy to get it passed the recommendation mark. Unfortunately, that jolt never came.
Brand New Old Love (2018) Written and directed by Cat Rhinehart. Starring Aya Cash, Arturo Castro, Josh Brener.
5 out of 10 stars