Written by: Robin C. Farrell | October 21st, 2021
Rhapsody of Love (Joy Hopwood, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.
There’s an earnestness that’s introduced from the very beginning of Rhapsody of Love that remains throughout and is easily the most compelling aspect of this movie, along with the charm of Kathy Luu and Benjamin Hanly (both from The Script of Life) as best friends Jess and Ben, respectively. Despite being a rom-com, concentrated on the many romances of all the characters, the real emotional core of this film is––or should have been––in their friendship and familial bond. It never fully takes hold, though, and therein lies the disappointment. Rhapsody of Love is an ensemble but feels like the thematic potential gets short-changed in order to make room for too many plotlines. The stories don’t ever really get the chance to thrive or take root.
The premise stands thus: at Ben’s wedding to Natasha (Jessica Niven, Dirt Music), sparks fly between Jess and Justin (Damien Sato, Innocent Killer). Little does Jess know that Justin’s got a girlfriend, Victoria (Lily Stewart, Rising Wolf), who also just happens to be Jess’ newest client. Everyone’s lives, loves, and ambitions subsequently clash and the film concludes in direct-to-camera interviews, likely inspired by When Harry Met Sally. Despite the warmth and good-natured intent here, the numerous conflicts presented lack nuance and wind up feeling amiss. For instance, Jess’ marketing business, which she runs alongside her sister Jade (writer and director Joy Hopwood, also The Script of Life) falls by the wayside. Once Jess reveals her longtime writing dream to Justin, the film abandons any mention of her work life and creates an unnatural asymmetry. Even the interviews at the end are abrupt given that director Hopwood only introduces them at the very end.
Most of the women are growing in their careers and have big dreams, and yet––apart from Jess—they are often depicted as selfish, insensitive, or spoiled, as well. What winds up missing from this myriad of relationships is the value of compromise. This film seems to affirm that it has to be all or nothing and the idea that love is solely about sweeping, grand gestures. The most powerful moments of love, however, are the most understated, frequently platonic (rather than romantic), or containing very little dialogue at all: Jess and Justin’s meet-cute; Jess supporting Ben through his anxiety; Victoria and Justin’s last scene; and Jess’ relationship with Jade. The film definitely ends on a high note and provides an overall positive viewing experience, if a slightly perplexing one, leaving you with the feeling that there was a lot of wasted possibility here.