“When I think about the soft bigotry of low expectations, I think of dating in New York”
Sometimes we must look past formulaic cliché and an overreaching desire to transform a less than trustworthy internet dating tool on Craigslist into a phenomenon used with overwhelming success before realizing entertainment can be enjoyed on levels above or below intellectual stimulation. First-time feature director Martin Snyder and co-writer Marnie Hanel may fall victim to glamorizing a gimmick in order to construct the framework underneath their story, but they don’t skimp on catching charmingly humorous characters inside its comical web of romance. While utilizing a tired rom/com trope of a lonely man winning the heart of the lonely woman he pines for at the risk of being discovered before revealing his intentions, its progression is endearing enough not to care. Missed Connections is fun regardless, especially because we follow both characters instead of just one.
Attorney Lucy Foster (Sting’s real-life daughter Mickey Sumner) is your run-of-the-mill career-oriented woman who serendipitously runs into the man of her dreams while leaving their firm’s American branch to take a position in London. There is chemistry, a kindred appreciation for charitable work and good literature, and an utter lack of names or numbers exchanging hands. With only a few days left before hopping across the pond, best friend Tess (Julia Jones) suggests composing a “missed connections” post online in the hopes he’ll see it, meet her, and fall hopelessly in love. Ever the pragmatist, however, Lucy shrugs it off as futile until it appears the mystery man (Jamie Belman’s Peter) writes one himself. Overjoyed to the point of completely losing her composure, she follows the message’s instructions only to be stood up.
Well, she thinks she was stood up. The reality is that she was duped by one of her firm’s three snooping IT guys. A tamer, Americanized trio of social awkwardness in the vein of UK series “The IT Crowd”, the day-to-day for Josh (Jon Abrahams), Jules (Malcolm Barrett) and Pradeep (Waris Ahluwalia) consists of spying on their coworkers’ computers and playing practical jokes. They use rock/paper/scissors to decide who must replace the newest water logged keyboard in the office and are unafraid to switch broadband connectivity with dial-up when a lawyer in need of assistance rubs them the wrong way. But while Jules is content keeping to himself and Pradeep creating e-vites on company time for his forthcoming rap battle, Josh can’t help lusting over Lucy knowing his miniscule window is about to close.
After intercepting Lucy and Tess’ instant messaging conversation, it’s the boys who craft the post that sends the smitten lawyer to the park with Oreo cookies and romantic bliss in her heart. Josh—hoping the prank makes her laugh—situates himself at their meeting spot, plucking away at his guitar until Lucy arrives in tears. Unable to tell the truth and devastate her more, Josh admits he wrote the post but says it was for another girl. Calming her down and cajoling her into waiting to see if the fictitious woman shows, the two eventually go to dinner and have fun in the process. Needing an excuse to see her again, Josh volunteers to help find her man by creating a “missed connections” app that filters all prospective posts together. All the posts he makes, of course.
We watch as failed meet-ups result in impromptu bike-riding lessons or dance classes while each detail Josh imagines about his elusive “Zoe” is discovered by Lucy on random girls throughout the city. As a result, just as she blindly progresses towards the reality of never finding her man, so too does he in her mind. From there we get the usual blossoming of unexpected love as two people searching for someone else end up finding each other. Peter returns to show his true colors, Josh grows overly protective of Lucy despite her oftentimes barely calling him a friend, and the bottom inevitably drops out just as things look good. It’s all completely contrived and obvious yet never smugly pretends it’s not. Missed Connections knows what it is from frame one and isn’t afraid to admit it.
Abrahams and Sumner share a contagious chemistry while they allow their characters to overcome preconceptions nicely. We quickly see there is more to him than simply getting in her pants and understand she isn’t the wet blanket her office persona leads us to believe. They are regular people like you and me caught inside the stagnancy of a safe life wherein taking chances only harbors the potential of upsetting the applecart beyond repair. We can relate to them both and pull for the sunny Hollywood ending we know will prevail. Even when bad filmmaking decisions like a lame radio announcer declaring Oreos food for intellectuals and a montage of every date we just saw are juxtaposed over forlorn looks by Lucy and Josh respectively, we laugh at the absurdity and keep on going.
The script has a tendency of trying too hard only to make up for its struggles by increasing the comedy along its fringes. Anastasia Ganias’ Claire gives a bit of brash, slutty sex appeal that adds fuel to how we view many of the characters involved while Barrett and Ahluwalia steal every single scene they’re in. The former’s Jules possesses a quiet demeanor masking an easily frustrated intellectual beneath who cannot sit by as his friends make fools of themselves when he knows he can do better while the latter’s Pradeep hilariously goes against his own ethnicity’s stereotype to drown in another’s. They alongside Abrahams’ Josh appear comfortable portraying their team of techie nerds with superiority complexes way larger than deserved, providing the film its biggest and most memorable laughs.