It would be disingenuous to say that romantic comedies are an endangered species, but they’re definitely not as prevalent as they once were. With studios increasingly focused on blockbusters or Oscar-quality movies, the romantic comedy has become something that’s more often found on Netflix or other streaming services instead of in theaters.
The Broken Hearts Gallery is an anomaly for that reason and several others. Lucy Gulliver (Geraldine Viswanathan) is a mid-20s woman trying to live her art dream in New York City. She also tends to hold on to mementos from past relationships, a fact that has her roommates — Amanda (Molly Gordon) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo) — calling her a hoarder (left unsaid is how many relationships she’s had, as she has a lot of stuff).
When she gets fired from her gallery job and has a chance meeting with Nick (Dacre Montgomery), who’s trying to renovate an old YMCA into a boutique hotel, inspiration sparks. She convinces Nick to let her start a gallery in the hotel dedicated to romantic keepsakes that she, and soon many others, is finally ready to release from her heart. That Nick is undeniably handsome, friendly, and charming leaves no doubt as to where the film is heading.
Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Natalie Krinsky, the film is reminiscent of an old school rom-com, featuring goofy, over-the-top characters, a karaoke sequence, and more staples of the genre. It’s also almost unrelentingly upbeat, with Lucy the eternal optimist no matter how many times life tries to bring her down.
That sunniness is a double-edged sword, though. While, thanks to Viswanathan’s performance, it’s impossible to hate Lucy, her upbeat attitude feels like a mask that prevents the audience from truly knowing who she is. She’s supposedly an open book, and she does lay a lot out there, but her one-note nature fails to inspire any strong connection with her.
Still, thanks to the genre’s conventions, the film is relatively successful. It has some narrative missteps, but by following the rom-com formula almost to the letter, there is pleasure built in. It also earns points by putting a woman of color at its center, and surrounding her with a cast that, while talented, have not yet become stars.
Soo, thanks to her role as Eliza in Hamilton, may be the best known of the group. Each of the other main actors has had previous moments in the sun — Viswanathan in Blockers, Montgomery in Stranger Things, Gordon in Booksmart — and this film gives the impression of the anointing of a new generation.
The Broken Hearts Gallery is a perfectly pleasant movie with actors who have winning personalities. It’s unlikely to garner many raves, but as a nice distraction amid the bad stuff going on in the world, it fits the bill.
The Broken Hearts Gallery is playing exclusively in theaters.