October 3, 2022
Stars Kaley Cuoco, Pete Davidson, Kevin Corrigan, Deborah S. Craig.
In film terms, the “meet cute” is a plot device in which the characters who are destined to fall in love unexpectedly encounter each other for the first time in some humorous or bizarre way.
That makes the title of the film Meet Cute somewhat ironic, since we never technically get to see the first meeting of Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) and Gary (Pete Davidson) — and from all indications it was just her picking him up at a bar, which isn’t exactly “unconventional” in the spirit of the phrase.
But that’s neither here nor there as far as the film is concerned, as it begins with what we are meant to think is their first encounter. And as far as Gary knows, it is. As Gary sits alone at the bar, Sheila approaches him, buys him a drink, and they hit it off and begin what is supposedly their first date — a night of dinner and conversation.
However, she seems to know what he will say before he says it, which leads to her joking that she’s a time traveler from the future. Only it’s not a joke, and at the end of the night after Gary says goodbye, Sheila returns to the time machine — a tanning bed at a random nail salon she happened upon one night — and jumps back a day to relive the date over and over, preferring to continually experience the relationship at its exhilarating beginning rather than allowing it to progress and risk everything falling apart.
That’s because Sheila is a bit of a psycho whose life before finding Gary was filled with depression and sadness and dysfunction. She attempts to make subtle changes every time she relives the date to make it even more perfect, and when that proves futile she tries going back farther in time to change Gary himself to make him more perfect to her.
A somewhat clunky attempt to blend the rom-com and time travel genres, Meet Cute features likable leads who manage to push the premise as far as it can go without their characters becoming off-putting.
The various romantic comedy elements on display provide an anchor for the audience as the film spoofs the tropes of time travel stories, establishing right away that the timeline is pretty malleable in this universe and that Sheila doesn’t have to worry about her misadventures causing paradoxes — especially as the first thing she does when resetting the clock is to run down her earlier self with her car so there aren’t multiple versions of herself running around.
Since the time machine is ultimately a metaphor for the fear of settling into a relationship and having to adjust to whatever lifestyle changes that would bring, the film isn’t too concerned about the logic of its time travel rules.
Sheila gets so lost in the cycle of her daily reset that she begins speaking to Gary as if he remembers everything she told him on previous versions of the date, as if he would remember the divergent timelines beyond a sense of déjà vu, which turns out to be a handy way to provide exposition to the audience.
Then there’s the implication that future events in one divergent timeline can impact the history of another, but any discussion of that would just be a massive spoiler and is best saved for another day.