Charming performances and romantic chemistry are necessary ingredients for any successful romantic comedy. But if filmmaking is anything like the culinary arts, then it should be equally apparent that one or two ingredients do not make for much of a satisfying meal. This is the major fault with Something From Tiffany’s (streaming on Prime Video December 9), wherein director Daryl Wein makes a commendable, if ultimately flawed, attempt at making a memorable holiday romance from Tamara Chestna’s anemic screenplay, adapted from the novel by Melissa Hill. Though it bears the appearance of a winter confection, it has about as much substance as an over-yeasted loaf of bread.
Set up as a weak attempt at a comedy of errors, Something From Tiffany’s finds Ethan (Kendrick Sampson) and his daughter Daisy (Leah Jeffries) visiting New York from Los Angeles and shopping for an engagement ring for Ethan’s girlfriend Vanessa (Shay Mitchell). Gary (Ray Nicholson) is also picking up something for his girlfriend Rachel (Zoey Deutch) when he gets hit by a cab, prompting Ethan to go help. In the process, their bags are switched, botching Ethan’s attempt to propose, while the apparently amnesiac Gary rolls with the surprisingly life-changing gift he’s given to his accidental fiancée. However, as Ethan continues to bump into Rachel and tries to figure out a way to painlessly get the ring back, the two start to realize a chemistry with one another that’s lacking with their intended partners.
If there is one thing that Something From Tiffany’s absolutely nails, it’s leaning in on the charisma of its leads. Sampson is perfect as the handsome, sensitive father archetype, while Deutch’s natural rambling extemporization adds of a lot of character to a somewhat cliché Hallmark holiday romance heroine. For as central as this pair’s chemistry is toward selling the movie, it never ceases to be a delight watching them flirt in the New York winter air, even as their characters are otherwise encumbered with relationships that would prevent them from further exploring their feelings for one another.
Yet it’s ultimately those relationships that the film wants us to root against that drag the experience down, namely because the plotting is a bit too coy about the obvious conclusions it wants us to draw and doesn’t fully commit to showing why Ethan’s and Rachel’s current relationships aren’t good for them until they’re well into their flirtation with each other. Gary is gradually revealed to be self-centered and a bit of an opportunist to make himself look more altruistic than he actually is, so it’s perhaps forgivable that the film tries to pull the rug out from under Rachel’s unsuspecting joy at being proposed to. But Vanessa is practically a background character until the third act, giving little indication of what her relationship with Ethan is even like until too late in the game. The problem with both relationships is that the film drags its feet in showing why they’re doomed, perhaps in an attempt to not paint any character in cartoonishly evil strokes, but ultimately giving Ethan and Rachel insufficient motivation to be so emotionally available at the start of the film since both of their relationships seem to be coasting along just fine.
It certainly doesn’t help that Something From Tiffany’s consistently forgets the comedic half of the romantic comedy formula, with many of its jokes falling flat for lack of wit or innovation. It again falls to the actors to carry the weight of this insufficiency, so while Deutch is a motor-mouthed delight, Jeffries is the image of loose-lipped precociousness, and Jojo T. Gibbs plays Rachel’s best friend as a meddling and protective influence, it’s hard not to recognize that their dialogue is in service to predictable story beats devoid of drive or tension.
None of this is to say that Something From Tiffany’s is unwatchable; it’s simply disposable. Clocking in with a sub-90-minute runtime just as the formulaic plot is wringing itself dry, it’s hard to accuse the film of overstaying its welcome or even of being artistically offensive in any way. For those looking to see two attractive people falling in love over a romantic holiday, there are certainly worse, much more incompetently conceived options. But it also seems unlikely that this will enter anyone’s consistent holiday rotation, likely doomed instead to the bowels of Amazon Prime Video and forgotten by January.