I have got to admit that I didn’t expect much from Netflix’s new Australian rom-com Love is in the Air. The plot seemed way too basic, and the trailer was not particularly impressive either. It was an assignment that I quickly wanted to get done with. Well, I am not claiming that this film is a masterpiece or even something that I will remember six months from now, but saying that director Adrian Powers has actually proven my assumption quite wrong would be the right thing.
Getting rom-coms right is a tricky business. The biggest challenge is probably escaping the predictability of the basic template associated with the genre. Two people are meeting under strange circumstances, stuff is happening, they are falling in love, getting together, and everybody is going home happy by the end; this is what I am specifically referring to. So the question is, how do you spice things up? Well, there are two ways. First, infusing some crazy twist, preferably from another genre, like how Richard Curtis blended the concept of time travel in the romantic narrative of About Time (2013), a film that I adore so much that I always include it in the ‘movies I would take to a deserted island’ kind of lists. The other thing you can do is stick to the basics and serve it up with precision.
Maybe treat the whole thing like onion fritters. Make sure the batter is thin enough to make them crunchy. Check the temperature of the oil before frying them. And, of course, don’t forget to serve them with a substantial amount of ketchup. We actually have a closer-to-home example of this kind of rom-com in Love at First Sight, which landed only two weeks ago on Netflix. Funnily enough, both these movies have one thing in common other than the genre, and that happens to be their association with the air. The lead pair of Love at First Sight met at the airport and took their flight together, and in Love is in the Air, our girl happens to be a pilot herself.
However, while Love at First Sight’ was a perfectly made onion fritter in every possible sense, the same cannot be said about Adrian Powers’ film. In fact, both the takeoff and the landing are kind of wobbly here, but the film does find its groove in the air if you know what I mean. In fact, I would actually say that the opening ten minutes might actually make you stop watching it. The two leads are introduced- the girl, Dana, is an Australian pilot who flies for the small, family-owned Fullerton Airways which is owned by her father; and the guy, William, happens to be the apparent heir of a big British financial company who is tasked with the job of closing the airways- as it is not at all financially beneficial. There is a lot of awkward acting, badly-written dialogues, and a dog who is called “Doug,” which only amps up the cringe quotient. But things get considerably better when Dana and Will finally meet, and from there on, the journey becomes pleasant enough to go on with. Yes, you wouldn’t find anything remotely surprising here.
Will and Dana, after some mild initial exchange of words, pretty much hit it off. Will, a rather shy man who has lived in his father’s shadow for his entire life, seems to come out of hiding under the influence of the free-spirited Dana. The two major supporting characters, Dana’s father, Jeff, and her friend Nikki, Fullerton’s only tech support, seem cool enough to be friends with. Will likes it so much there that he doesn’t want to shut down Fullerton anymore. We know for a fact that there will be some drama about that plot point, and at the end of everything, Will and Dana will live happily ever after; yet, we keep watching because it is sort of fun to watch. One particularly novel thing Love is in the Air does, though, is not make the story about Will and Dana, but about Fullerton. That is why, instead of relying on Will revealing his “big secret” to Dana and the company, the director brings in a cyclone story arc and focuses on public welfare. For a brief period of time, the film brushes with the disaster genre, but with Will and Dana at the center of everything.
Among the many things that Love is in the Air lacks, originality is probably the major one. Not only is the main plot something we have seen millions of times before, but the whole “shy businessman with a boring-as-hell life finally being able to see the rainbow thanks to this vivacious girl he has met by chance” seems clearly lifted from a cute little (and much better) Bollywood film called Jab We Met. And, of course, we are all very familiar with the one cool parent and one strict parent structure. The only interesting bit here is the presence of Dana’s ex in the narrative, who, unlike your usual movie exes, turns out to be quite nice and even encourages Dana to seek new relationships.
Taking things to a sort of philosophical route here; would you all agree if I said that at the end of the day, everyone does yearn for a bit of romance? You might not accept it because you think it might make you uncool or choose to live in denial, but it is the harsh truth- at least, that’s what I believe. Maybe that’s why watching people find love that easily on screen is something hard to believe and sneered at, as in the real world, the most Will and Dana would probably end up having is a forgettable fling. We also have Netflix to blame for making us allergic to this genre, thanks to their usual habit of churning out garbage after garbage. But Love is in the Air turns out to be quite an exception, the second one in the span of two weeks. As I have mentioned already, it is nothing great, but it would work fine as a lazy afternoon watch or a date night movie if you are looking for something mushy and fun. Last but not least, the sports fan in me was elated to see Will and Dana’s father bantering about the very recent Ashes series. Love is in the Air gets an extra half of a star from me, thanks to that only.