A fluff-piece out two months before its prime time, About Fate is a lukewarm entry into the holiday rom-com catalog.
For a romantic comedy, About Fate is about as generic a title as they come, and it certainly matches the film that follows, a predictable slice of milquetoast pap that would feel snug at home on any basic cable network or streaming service. Indeed, the biggest mystery is why this holiday-set piece of fluff, directed by Marius Vaysberg, is being dropped in the middle of September, when its target audience would snarf it down in roughly .5 seconds had it been released at a more appropriate time. Then again, the Hallmark Channel successfully celebrates Christmas in July each year with a slate of new content, so the rules are pretty vague. Star Emma Roberts is certainly no stranger to this type of material, having starred in Netflix’s wildly popular Holidate in 2020, and she reteams with that film’s screenwriter, Tiffany Paulsen, because she’s either very loyal or understands where the money train stops (or both); Scorsese and De Niro are undoubtedly quaking in their boots. Along for the ride this time out is Thomas Mann, a young actor who was last seen inadvertently separating Marcel the Shell from his family, and so is instantly met with suspicion from this critic.
As the film opens, Margot (Roberts) and Griffin (Mann) are both waking up in their respective duplexes on a crisp winter’s morn, preparing for an evening of expected enchantment: he plans on popping the question to his girlfriend of three months, while she anxiously awaits a proposal. Yet in a shocking twist revealed at the defunct chain restaurant of Benningan’s(?!), we discover that Margot and Griffin don’t actually know one another, a case of misdirect so clever that smelling salts should be administered with each ticket purchase. Griffin’s girlfriend, a social media influencer by the name of Clementine (Madelaine Petsch), is rightfully appalled that he would propose in such a hellhole of kitsch, insisting that he do it at her corporate-sponsored New Year’s Eve party the next night, even though it’s a tradition that the members of Griffin’s family get engaged on December 30, because that’s the level of bonkers this film is operating at. Margot, meanwhile, gets dumped by the dreamy Kip (Lewis Tan), who is rightfully appalled that she would expect a proposal after only three months and having never met a single one of her friends or family. Margot is especially heartbroken because, in less than 24 hours, she has to attend the wedding of her Bridezilla sister, Carrie (Britt Robertson), who, along with the rest of her family, is convinced that Kip is fake.
This is where the titular fate comes in, as a series of events far too dunderheaded to get into here ultimately result in Griffin winding up naked in Margot’s bed. After the 911 operator she rightfully calls informs her that Griffin sounds like a nice guy, Margot decides to convince Griffin to pose as Kip and accompany her to the wedding, because otherwise it would ruin her sister’s day or some such nonsense. And so the two pose as a loving couple, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s not long before the ruse starts to feel real. Too bad Griffin is still set to propose to Clementine in mere hours, and then there’s also the matter of Kip showing up at the reception, which then involves a poorly choreographed fight scene between Kip and Griffin because the dude has a third-degree black belt. (Also to this point, Mann looks to weigh roughly two pounds, which is only worth noting because the film makes this painfully clear by jumping through hoops to have him wind up in his underwear at the most inopportune times.)
If it wasn’t already clear, About Fate is incredibly stupid, but it also isn’t nearly as painful as it could have been, thanks to its two likable leads who share more chemistry than one usually expects from such a thankless endeavor. Nothing here is particularly fresh or funny — and the film really isn’t doing itself any favors by constantly referencing Breakfast at Tiffany’s — but in comparison to such soulless dreck as The Christmas Prince or A Castle for Christmas, it feels more like a semi-stale sugar cookie and a lukewarm cup of cocoa than the usual gift-wrapped pile of shit, and that’s meant as a compliment. In other words, expect Amazon Prime to promote the hell out of this thing in three months once it finally shows up for free on its streaming platform. About Fate certainly offers its intended audience no reason not to wait, especially as the holiday season might coax them into a more forgiving mood.
Published as part of Before We Vanish — September 2022.