Thursday, January 25, 2018

Movie Review: "Forever My Girl" (2018)

Director: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Year: 2018
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

A country music superstar returns to his hometown for the first time in eight years to attend his former best friend's funeral. Once there, he runs into the woman he left at the altar eight years earlier and learns he has a seven-year-old daughter. Now, he wants to do what he can to make things right.

Oh, look, a January romantic drama. There's no way this could be bad, right!? "Forever My Girl" is written and directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf and is based on a book of the same name by Heidi McLaughlin. It stars Alex Roe as Liam Page who, after leaving his longtime girlfriend Josie, played by Jessica Rothe, at the altar on their wedding day, rockets to country music stardom. Liam has spent the last eight years making albums, touring day in and day out, having fun with a different groupie every night, drinking, and earning a boatload of cash. When he learns his best friend from high school has been killed in a car accident, he returns to his hometown of St. Augustine, Louisiana for the first time since he made it big and now must face his past mistakes. Once he gets home, he runs into his ex and learns he has a seven-year-old daughter named Billy, played by Abby Ryder Fortson. Now, Liam wants to do what he can to atone for his mistakes.

What can we really expect from a January romance movie other than a schmaltzy story loaded with every cliche in cinematic existence? This is a story about a man seeking redemption for the wrongs he's done. He abandoned his fiance. He abandoned his father. He didn't contact anybody from his hometown in eight years. Still, he has a young daughter, and the filmmaker and writer want us to root for his redemption story. We want him to get back together with Josie and to be a good daddy to his little Billy. It's a tale as old as time.

We imagine this is what it would look like if a rich lady's Pinterest board came to life. It's very apparent that to achieve a certain aesthetic for "Forever My Girl," the people responsible for making this movie scoured every possible Pinterest pin they could to make it a country lover's wet dream: the Southern sunsets, the dirt roads, the laid-back lifestyle, the twinkle lights outside people's houses, the two hundred varieties of flowers dripping in sunlight, and the mason jars...Jesus almighty, the mason jars...they are seriously everywhere, from flower holders to soap dispensers to drinking glasses.

The characters themselves are paper thin. Liam is the stereotypical jock who has a hidden talent as a country music singer. When he leaves town, he becomes the stereotypical musician complete with groupies, substance abuse, writer's block, and a penchant for ducking out on his management knowing he has no new material for them. Josie has hardly anything to do and has almost zero character arc. It seems like she has only ever been a mother for eight years and has had zero other romantic interests in her life hoping that someday, one day, maybe, Liam might return to their little town of "Saint" and sweep her off her feet. We don't have any feelings one way or the other about the acting, though it does seem like Jessica Rothe loses her southern accent from times to time. We do see potential in her as an actress and hope she gets more roles in the future.

The movie is as predictable as can be. It offers nothing new to the romance genre, just more unrealistic romantic fantasies full of sap and cheese. It never tries to tackle larger issues at play, it merely treats them as minor inconveniences. Liam has a clear history of substance abuse and is definitely an alcoholic, but that whole aspect of his character is glossed over just as fast as it's introduced. It is only briefly mentioned by his father, yet he never really struggles to give it up. Also, the entire idea of Liam's grand romantic gesture hinges on him keeping this old beat-up, out of date, no internet flip phone because he doesn't want to lose a voicemail. Anyone who has even the smallest knowledge of phones can tell you voicemails are not stored on the phone, but rather on the network server. This may be a big nitpick, but it certainly bugged the hell out of us considering BigJ's work history in the cell phone industry. In fact, Liam's complete ineptness around all things technological really bugged us. It's like he was some weird creature kept in a cage and was only let out to record albums and perform concerts and drink heavily like his life didn't exist beyond music. Seriously...he couldn't even order a piece of jewelry online and had never used his credit cards on his own. How the hell does that even happen in the 2010's?

If you are a huge fan of formulaic Nicholas Sparks-style romance films, you may enjoy "Forever My Girl," a generic romance full of generic characters, a generic premise, and generic songs. Otherwise, steer clear of this Pinterest board come to life.

My Rating: 2.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 2.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~20%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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