Recently I've noticed that I've become hyper-aware of what's on TV, from making sure I don't miss certain shows I love to realizing I actually need to watch some of them to be prepared for my job. There's so much crossover between TV and movies these days -- really good TV and movies -- that it's important to be on the up-and-up, in my opinion. It was with no small pleasure that I sought out Save the Date because it stars Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie, who appear(ed) on two very funny and smart shows I enjoy, Party Down and Community. That said, the description of Save the Date isn't particularly memorable in a film festival full of movies about usually young, usually good-looking people who are struggling with sex/love/heartbreak/commitment.
Sarah (Caplan) is pretty happy with her independent life as an artist and bookstore manager, and she's already a little freaked out to be moving in with her boyfriend Kevin (Geoffrey Arend). Soon after they shack up, he proposes to her in the middle of his band's show, and she flees. She flees right into the arms of Jonathan (Mark Webber), a guy who frequents her bookstore and has had his eye on her for a while, and they begin an earnest and sweet affair that might or might not be a rebound. Sarah's sister Beth (Brie) is pretty much the opposite; we're not told what she does, but it's definitely more professional than managing a bookstore, and she's going into overdrive planning her wedding to Andrew, Kevin's best friend (Martin Starr, also of Party Down, among other shows and movies). She's tired of doling out advice and sympathy to her sister, especially when Sarah isn't particularly interested in much of anything outside of her own tendency to screw things up. Andrew watches with a wary eye, occasionally reigning in his fiancé or broken-hearted best friend and trying to keep everything on an even keel.
What makes this movie about young, good-looking people struggling with sex/love/heartbreak/commitment better than most is the strength of the cast, the terrific script, and the delightful influences of graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown. Brown's illustrations stand in for Sarah's, who draws in detail tender scenes from her love life. Brie shows range as a frustrated woman on the verge of a bridezilla breakdown, Starr is a warm, steady presence, and Arend is great as the understandably confused and self-destructive ex-boyfriend. (Since I usually only think of him as the stoned guy from Super Troopers, I was pleasantly surprised with his performance.) Caplan is the center of the story and takes on the duty beautifully; the biting, dry humor we're used to seeing from her is softened and more hopeful even as she tries to protect herself from being tied down by love. Although she thinks she's got it all figured out, that "aspirations are totally overrated," she's far more nuanced that your typical disaffected young woman with arty tendencies.
Save the Date is beautifully shot, especially the intimate love scenes, and the integration of Brown's cartoon-ish drawings doesn't overwhelm or make the movie look too precious. The script is quietly funny and genuine; during one sex scene, Sarah laughs and tells Jonathan, "Your dick tastes like merlot." Each character is treated fairly; everyone grudgingly admits they actually like Jonathan, even Kevin, and though Beth is smug enough to tell her sister, "This is your mistake to make and I respect that," she's still there for Sarah in the clinch. Save the Date isn't a groundbreaking movie, but it's a loveable one that showcases the growing range of a wonderful group of actors.