Movie Review – How He Fell in Love
Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, this movie is probably wrongly titled in that it suggests a story that leans on its male protagonist when the main female actor is the one that does all the heavy lifting. Despite its title, Boyhood had Patricia Arquette as its shining star. This movie has Amy Hargreaves as its shining star, and as such the movie should be named for her. Her amount of screen time is equal to the male lead but her screen presence is greater by far. Perhaps it’s a misdirect on the part of writer-director Marc Meyers, so that audiences will be surprised by how much Hargreaves takes over this film, but, in reality the title should be “How She Fell in Love.”
Matt McGorry (How To Get Away With Murder and Orange Is the New Black) stars as Travis, a guitar player in New York City who is a little down on his luck. He’s not struggling or starving. He’s got a job with a friend in what looks like marketing research for commercial products. It’s not the most exciting, but it allows him to have an apartment in Lower Manhattan, a small one but still. He used to be in a band, but it broke up due to tragic circumstances.
That fact keeps McGorry from really having to perform. He occasionally and briefly holds and strums a guitar, but, by the end it’s suggested that he’s a singer-songwriter who can tour and play at various venues. Yet, unlike some actors like Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis and 10 Years, Jamie Foxx in Ray and Dreamgirls or Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash and Into the Woods, McGorry never has to prove he has any musical ability. In a very specific scene when one thinks he might actually sing and strum in a live-to-film performance, Meyers cuts away. A song that Travis creates called “Crooked Toes” is instead performed by an artist identified in the press kit as Gambles. McGorry for the most part just has to be the man-candy, the good-looking and sweet guy who is a catalyst for reflection and possible change for Hargreaves’ character.
Travis’ introduction in the film is his attendance at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Meyers could have started the film anywhere but why there? Were we supposed to glean something from Travis’ presence and brief interaction with his ex-girlfriend? If so, Meyers never invites us to know what that something is.
Instead, we pivot to Amy Hargreaves (Homeland and Blue Ruin) who co-stars as Ellen, the woman whom Travis meets at the wedding and with whom he begins an affair. Why he drifts away from the woman he’s currently dating, Monica, played by Britne Oldford (Skins and American Horror Story) and toward Ellen is never explained. Ellen is a beautiful woman for sure. She manages if not owns a yoga studio in Gramercy. She’s 13 years older than Travis, which isn’t the real hindrance. The real hindrance is that Ellen is married.
Why she goes for Travis is ever clear. Besides Travis being a cute, funny, cool and sexy hunk, her life with her husband Henry, played by Mark Blum (Mozart in the Jungle and Law & Order), a real estate agent who is in his late 60’s or early 70’s, is not the greatest. The age gap between Ellen and Henry is a lot more than 13 years. It’s probably double that number and it’s taking a toll, especially when it comes to the issue of children.
Watching Hargreaves and Blum in the scenes where we learn about their troubled marriage are probably some of the best scenes in this movie with the exception of one. Unfortunately, those same scenes underscore the imbalance here and the inappropriate title because those scenes help us to understand Ellen better, but there are really no scenes that help us to understand Travis better.
Even in what is arguably the best scene in the movie, a scene involving Travis, the best insight into his character and why he’s doing what he’s doing is no insight at all. His motives are reduced to him saying his attraction or relationship to Ellen is “indescribable.” Yes, it’s meant to be a cute moment, and it is, but it reveals a deficiency in character development for Travis, probably on a script level. Therefore, we’re left to wonder why Travis would pursue this married woman. It couldn’t be just for the sex. He could get that from Monica fairly easily. It couldn’t be for any kind of future because his character never seems concerned about anything beyond a few days.
When it comes to love, there often is no sense or logic to be had. Travis could simply want to be with Ellen no matter how or why, but in a narrative, those things help. They help the audience to invest in the characters on screen. Any investing in Travis comes from the sheer, wonderful being that is McGorry. He’s so charming that one goes with him. He’s also so empathetic that one sides with him, even when he’s deserving of a slap.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains language, nudity and sex.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.
For more information, including where the film is playing, go to http://www.howhefellinlove.com.