Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 2/11/22

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Inventing Anna (CREDIT: Aaron Epstein/Netflix)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Blacklight (Theaters) – Liam Neeson Action.
Death on the Nile (Theaters) – Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh Version) back on the case.
I Want You Back (Amazon Prime Video)
Marry Me (Theaters and Streaming on Peacock) – A rom-com for us.

TV
Inventing Anna Series Premiere (February 11 on Netflix) – Fun with fraud.
-Puppy Bowl XVIII (February 13 on Animal Planet)

Music
-alt-J, The Dream
-Spoon, Lucifer on the Sofa
-Tegan and Sara, Still Jealous – A reimagining of their 2004 album So Jealous.
-Eddie Vedder, Earthling

Sports
-Super Bowl LVI (February 13 on NBC)

How Well Does ‘I Want You Back’ Handle Its Manipulative Premise? Let’s Find Out!

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I Want You Back (CREDIT: © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC)

Starring: Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Gina Rodriguez, Scott Eastwood, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, Omar Gooding, Dylan Gelula, Isabel May, Pete Davidson, Jami Gertz

Director: Jason Orley

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: R for Adults Behaving Hot and Bothered

Release Date: February 11, 2022 (Amazon Prime Video)

Plenty of romantic comedies feature highly manipulative, perhaps even psychopathic behavior, and I Want You Back is just the latest example. That feature of the genre isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. It all just depends on how you present it. If you’re going for something cynical or a heightened/surreal vibe, then this behavior fits perfectly. If however you want to conclude with the sweet-as-treacle traditional happily-ever-after, then the message might end up a whole heck of a lot darker than intended. In the case of I Want You Back … it’s complicated. It features likable actors who can go vicious or weird if that’s what’s asked of them, but this time they’re aiming for something more grounded and thoughtful. But they’re not perfect either. They make some bad decisions, eventually they have to deal with the consequences, and the narrative grapples with how to move forward from those consequences.

Here’s the setup: Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) are both blindsided when they’re dumped from their respective long-term relationships. Breakups are always hard, but these ones are especially tough, because these two mortal fools have convinced themselves that their now-exes (Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez) were The Ones for them. So when they have a chance encounter in the office building where they both work, they hatch a scheme wherein they will rip apart the new relationship of the other’s ex so that they can be reunited. Along the way, they get up to a few shenanigans, deliver some chuckle-worthy dialogue, forge some unlikely friendships, and learn a little bit about themselves. But the clock is ticking, and The Truth Bomb is just waiting to go off…

Let’s jump ahead to discuss the point when Peter and Emma’s scheme fully unravels. Predictably, everyone who’s been an unwitting pawn is so aghast at the lack of forthrightness and integrity when they thought everything had been genuine. It would be realistic if everyone remained angry with each other for weeks, months, or even years afterward. But instead, they talk it out. Is it enough to justify a happy ending? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not personally sure myself. But I am certain that it’s ultimately healthiest to address these emotionally distressing situations head-on. It may be supremely difficult, but settling on anger most likely means allowing these situations to fester into something even more toxic. Since I Want You Back recognizes that, it mostly wins my approval.

I Want You Back is Recommended If You Like: Sitcom Stars in Movies, Quarter-Life Crises, Abortive threesomes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Airplane Safety Masks