“You Can’t Say No” has everything you wouldn’t want in a romantic comedy — poor acting and a predictable plot. It’s an attempt at a lighthearted flick that sacrifices emotionality and character development for its narrative’s simplicity. According to the film, it’s easy to overcome the hurt of a cheating husband and a passionless marriage — all you need is a failed threesome, some molly and a Hot Dog on a Stick employee outfit.
The premise of this train wreck revolves around a game between a recently separated couple who are supposed to sign their divorce papers before the end of the week. Hank Murphy (Hus Miller) sets off on his old motorcycle to spend the weekend at the vineyard where his father works. Hank’s motorcycle breaks down in a small town, however, and Alex Murphy (Marguerite Moreau) finds him after she spots the bike being towed away. At a suspiciously clean, half-full bar, the two start playing a “truth or dare” style game — each gets four questions or dares that the other has to answer or complete over the course of four days.
One mindless task or question at a time, the two quickly reconnect. There is one snafu when Alex finds a note with a girl’s number in Hank’s pants pocket, a plot point that is as cringe-worthy and predictable as it seems on paper. With one fax — a fax? — to the still half-full bar where Alex flees after finding the note, Hank wins Alex’s heart and trust back, because that’s how relationships work.
The trope of the broken-hearted couple who reconnect after time apart is exhausted. To dash any hopes of breathing life into their tired caricatures, Miller and Moreau have questionably little on-screen chemistry. Every conversation between the two is like a script reading where neither person has seen the script before. It’s as though they realized the ridiculous premise of the plot after it was too late to back out and then decided not to put forth any effort going forward. The dull dialogue they share is further blunted by their inability to competently deliver lines or convincingly emote.
Even more troubling than the subpar acting is the plot’s blatant ignorance of the intricacies of life — like how a family’s dynamic changes when spouses decide to separate. Hank and Alex’s two children, Angus (Gus Miller) and Penny (Sophie Haugen), are frustratingly one-dimensional. They love their parents and seemingly have no real issues with the divorce, besides “missing Daddy” one day after he leaves for the weekend. The characters are clearly old enough to have a more complex understanding of the true implications of divorce, with both of their ages in the early double digits. The superficiality of the children’s emotional scope blatantly ignores the wide range of feelings that teenagers and preteens experience.
In an attempt to modernize the plot, Angus reveals to his parents that Penny has a girlfriend at camp. This fact pops up intermittently throughout the script, but the lowest moment comes when Hank and Alex discuss their daughter’s sexuality in the car. Alex flippantly proposes that this is just a phase. Rather than dealing head-on with teenage sexuality, the film brushes off this “issue” in a move that is equal parts outdated and uncomfortable.
Like Penny, each character gets one mention of backstory that does nothing except add to the feeling that this film was slapped together by a freshman film student. Although the rest of the characters’ backstories are not blatantly offensive, they simply add to the script’s flagrant simplification of life. The film’s perfect storm of lackluster punchlines, half-hearted acting and predictability makes the romantic comedy anything but.
Contact Keats Iwanaga at [email protected]ailycal.org.
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the main character of the film as Will, played by William Shockley. In fact, the film’s protagonist is Hank Murphy, played by Hus Miller.