Set It Up (2018)
Finding love takes some assistants.
Sometimes it’s enough just to have your expectations met. Not every movie is going to completely rewrite your psychic software, nor should they. Sometimes you just want a movie to hit its genre-mandated KPIs and flit speedily out of your long-term memory before the credits even finish rolling. And so it is with Set It Up, a gossamer-light confection of a rom-com that just hit Netflix recently.
The elevator pitch is a neat one: two horribly overworked personal assistants, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) figure out that their driven, selfish, workaholic respective bosses, Kirsten Stevens (Lucy Liu) and Rick Otis (Taye Diggs) would possibly cut them some slack if they were to, you know, bone.
It’s kind of a double down on the old Cyrano de Bergerac/ Roxanne riff, with daily planners instead of poetry: Harper and Charlie know Kirsten and Rick cold, so engineering a meet cute and arranging things so the pair will hit it off is a cinch. But … could feelings develop between the cute but lonely Harper and the smart-alec, ambitious Charlie?
Well, of course they can — this is that kind of movie. Set It Up is glib, frothy fun that offers almost no surprises but is gently, inoffensively entertaining from start to finish. The cast is game and charismatic, with Zoey Deutch, Why Him? (2016), in particular displaying genuine movie star magnetism. Most of the jokes land, and everyone runs a decent line in snappy patter. At 105 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome. And yeah, it even has a few things to say about work/ life balance, the sacrifices necessary for success (or even getting your foot on the bottom rung — Harper and Charlie work like dogs for the privilege of, well, working like dogs) and whether those sacrifices are ultimately worth it.
It feels very sitcom-ish, which makes sense, this being the feature debut of veteran TV director Claire Scanlon, who has shepherded episodes of everything from The Office (2009-13) to Black-ish (2014) to GLOW (2017) to Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013) to the small screen. Indeed, it’s easy enough to imagine Set It Up reconfigured as a weekly half hour comedy, with perhaps a little light profanity quietly dropped (or perhaps not, the Age of Streaming being what it is).
And that’s it — that’s your lot. Set It Up isn’t going to sway anyone who wouldn’t normally take in a bubbly rom-com, but if it sounds like your bag, it probably is.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Travis Johnson