I mean, at least it taught me what a ‘sugar baby’ is….
Synopsis: Blake Conway, aspiring journalist, hopeless romantic and college senior, is terrified of graduating. In order to escape her looming post-graduation fate that includes student debt and zero romantic prospects, she becomes a sugar baby. As she documents the adventure in the hopes of winning a journalism award with a generous cash prize, she sets out on a quest to figure out if society is right to judge these woman and if her own self worth comes with a price. (Elevation Pictures)
Starring: Jessica Barden, Hayley Law, Brett Dier
Writer: Carly Stone
Director: Carly Stone
Rating: 14A (Canada)
Running Time: 82mins
It’s rare for Canadian films to get true widespread attention, and The New Romantic is one of those films that has reached such heights. Earning quite the raves when it played in the Narrative Feature Competition at this past SXSW, followed by a screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival, this is a film that has slowly but surely built up buzz through it’s quiet marketing campaign. With this type of scenario, we always have to stop and ask ourselves: was it festival hype? Or is it actually that great? Unfortunately, we land in the former here. The New Romantic is absolutely trying to do something new, and for that, it deserves credit. The sex trade isn’t really explored in film from this perspective, and it’s definitely interesting in that aspect of it. The perspective is fresh, and the characters are decently written, but other than that this really goes nowhere new.
When a film drags at a 75 minute run time, that is a problem – and The New Romantic definitely falls into this very problem. The story is interesting enough when it unravels initially, but it just keeps going and going for what honestly feels like 120 minutes. But at the same time, it goes by too fast in it’s development of characters – Jessica Barden’s Blake is the only character here that is even slightly developed, and the development is barely there. We get to know nothing about her as a person other than she’s a journalist that is interested in writing about the subject matter of the film, and absolutely nothing else. All the other characters are paper thin, and practically just plot devices. So much so, that it is easy to forget why they were really there. The roommate was just there to fill up empty gaps with conversation, and so are all the other side characters that I’m in fact having trouble recalling.
The acting is decent enough – Jessica Barden, fresh from 2015’s The Lobster is alright, and really the most intriguing part about the film. She’s likable, but the personality isn’t really there for full engagement. The rest of the cast is just alright, but it’s the fault of the script. In fact, the script is really where all of this film’s problems occur, in that it’s just wholly unmemorable and gives the audience no reason to pay attention.
The best way to summarize The New Romantic is that it… just exists? It’s not even close to painfully bad, but at the same time, it isn’t necessarily even remotely good. It’s got alright story, alright acting and it’s really just alright in every single aspect. It’s not something that you’ll likely have a strong opinion on, most people will surely fall in the middle, not absolutely loving or hating it. It just could’ve gone slightly further in it’s ideas, as the poor development and lack of depth in every single aspect of this film just feels empty.