In A Case Of You’s standout scene, hack writer Sam Newman (Justin Long) meets with a literary agent (Vince Vaughn) about his passion project, an autobiographical novel based on his courtship of pixie-haired dream girl Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood). The agent thinks that the manuscript has serious literary merit, and Sam is elated. His happiness turns to horror, though, when the agent begins to describe the narrator, whom Sam modeled on himself, as an emotionally stunted sociopath. The agent doesn’t realize that Sam and Birdie’s relationship is meant to be romantic; to him, it reads as doomed and delusional.
It’s a rare burst of self-awareness in what is, for the most part, just another cameo-packed, Brooklyn-set romantic comedy. For a few minutes, A Case Of You acknowledges that its setup—which involves Sam trying to turn himself into a “perfect man” for Birdie by taking up every interest listed on her Facebook page—is innately creepy. Then it snaps back to the rom-com formula. The scene is a wink to the audience, as though the movie were acknowledging that it’s too smart for its own clichés. (It’s debatable, though, whether it’s self-awareness, or a complete lack thereof, that led former Mac pitchman Long to produce, co-write, and star in a film whose plot involves extensive use of Apple products.)
A Case Of You’s characters and plot points will be familiar to anyone who’s seen a movie in which a neurotic urbanite pines for a beautiful girl. There are song montages, an intrusive stoner roommate (Keir O’Donnell), an intimidating ex-boyfriend (Brendan Fraser, well-cast as a friendly lunkhead), moments of public humiliation, a drug sequence, smart-alecky supporting characters, and a musician for the central couple to bond over (Joni Mitchell, of course). Music is listened to on vinyl, people use the Internet for snooping but not communication, and no important conversation happens over the phone. The setting is a not-quite-hip thirtysomething monoculture where any deviation from the norm—such as one character’s attraction to older women—is treated as social gross-out material.
In other words, the movie is about as generic as modern romantic comedies get; even its occasional pleasures—like Peter Dinklage’s performance as an eye-rolling barista—are rooted in genre tropes and archetypes. The question remains, though, as to whether the movie is any better off for recognizing its own unoriginality.