The romantic comedy landscape is peppered with film trying to show the absurdities of love all the while doing their best to unite the two love interests. Some people do this well, most fail miserably, while few hit middle ground. Simon Helberg & Jocelyn Towne‘s We’ll Never Have Paris fits into the latter category. While I’ve never seen Big Bang Theory where Helberg has made his name (and a shit ton of money), I can imagine that his portrayal of super-nerd Howard Wolowitz isn’t far from what we see in his character Quinn in this film. But I could be wrong, although, admittedly, I rarely am.
The premise of this film is pretty standard. Quinn is a guy who is out of his league in his relationship with Devon (the always lovely Melanie Lynsky). Neurotic/hypochondriac like so many of Woody Allen‘s characters, Quinn is a wannabe musician who refuses to play his music in public for fear of criticism who instead spends his time working in a flower shop. Devon is a Flaubert-loving literature professor. After 10 years together, Quinn teeters on whether or not to pop the question to Devon and this decision is further complicated by his friend and coworker (and yet another woman out of his league) Kelsey (Maggie Grace) telling him that she thinks she’s in love with him. So after Quinn tells Devon he needs some space, he hooks up with Kelsey, but finds that it isn’t her she wants, it’s Kelsey. Like a dummy, he comes clean to Devon about what happened with Kelsey and she understandably splits. When he comes to grovel at her feet, Devon’s mother (Judith Light) tells her she’s moved to Paris. So what else can he do but chase her down in the City of Love and hope to win her back? Of course hijinks ensue, misunderstandings occur and Quinn does his best to get his girl back. But when another rooster (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) ends up in the hen house, playing sonatas on his priceless violin, cooking her fantastic meals and discussing the merits of Flaubert, can Quinn keep up?
With films like this one, there is well-tread territory. Making it fresh and new is the hard part. Helberg & Towne‘s script has its moments, but it hits familiar notes in many other places. It’s hard to understand how Quinn , a man with no self-confidence, who is really doesn’t have many redeeming qualities is able to bang at least three hot birds in this movie. This is a fairly representative phenomenon in both film and TV these days – the nerdy and/or fat guy are able to land incredibly attractive women who unflichingly overlook the major flaws in their partners’ character. In Helberg‘s case, it helps that he wrote and co-directed the film in addition to starring in it. I guess if you’re going to write your a vehicle and then directing it, making yourself end up with super attractive women is the way to go. Melanie Lynsky is as charming as ever in this film. I really love watching her work, but I do wish she had more opportunity to speak in her original Australian accent. Maggie Grace is just not an actress I can connect with – perhaps it was how she ran in Taken that ruined it for me, but it’s hard to see her characters’ motivation for wanting to be with Quinn.
This is a film that has a few funny highlight and is well populated with ancillary characters that add a lot of scenery to the goings on, which is much needed in a film that a fair amount takes place in Paris, which we hardly get to see. Alfred Molina plays Quinn’s dad and dispenses crucial information for Quinn’s happiness and success in his relationship, ultimately sending him down the path he follows throughout the film. That was a really nice touch. Judith Light‘s turn as Devon’s mom is amusing and maybe the first time that I’ve seen her since Who’s the Boss? Zachary Quinto, who plays Quinn’s best friend and advisor, brings quite a bit of color to the film as well and may well be the best part.
All in all, this is a fun movie that many people would enjoy. My guess is if you like Helberg in The Big Bang Theory enough to sit through a movie he wrote and co-directed, then you will probably enjoy this one. It opens today, January 23, in theaters and On Demand.