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Photo: ‘Look Both Ways’
While Netflix has become a powerhouse in the realm of episodic television for streaming, its portfolio of original films has been lackluster, to say the least. These movies range from low-budget action flicks to unoriginal rom coms which seem to forget that their primary job is to make viewers laugh. Once every blue moon, Netflix gives us a ‘Don’t Look Up’ or ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’, but nine out of ten times, their original features are worth scrolling past.
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Netflix’s newest romantic dramedy, ‘Look Both Ways’, is a slightly more original concept than that of the service’s other original films, that being the idea of a college grad taking a pregnancy test and the story following two different plot lines based on the results of that test. The actors involved do the best they can with what they are given. However, many of the problems plaguing the majority of Netflix films, particularly its other rom coms, are still present. The film lacks enough conflict to make us invested in the characters and while the premise surrounding the two storylines is interesting and is navigated seamlessly, nothing seems to be done with it, leaving untapped potential.
‘Look Both Ways’ – An Original Concept With Some Promise
As mentioned earlier, the idea of having corresponding storylines based on the results of a pregnancy test is something that has not really been done before. Director Wanuri Kahiu also does a solid job of weaving both storylines through each other seamlessly. Both storylines appear as close to being simultaneous as possible without feeling jarring in the slightest. In other words, the real strength here is in the editing. Some of the characters themselves have enough original traits or components to them to intrigue the audience enough about their lives and goals. For instance, Nat, the protagonist, is an aspiring animator who is also trying to navigate life as a young adult.
The acting across the board is on point and succeeds in bringing these characters to life. Lili Reinhart brings the necessary levity and sensitivity required to play a character like Nat. A young woman who just graduated college and is trying to kick off a sustainable career as an artist should have a sense of familiarity that should resonate with many millennials and Gen Z’ers, the majority of Netflix subscribers. Reinhart is able to pull this off almost effortlessly, giving us a very likable character in Nat. Danny Ramirez also does a great job as Nat’s college friend hoping for his band to take off. Nearly every other performer in the film, such as Aisha Dee as Nat’s friend Cara, David Corenswet as her boyfriend Jake (in one of the storylines), and Andrea Savage as her mom Tina, were solid enough for their respective roles. The one character that came off as a bit underused was Luke Wilson as Nat’s dad Rick, perhaps because Wilson’s comedic charisma was just right in front of our eyes, begging to be utilized but was unfortunately not.
Unfortunately, the film is still plagued by many of the same weaknesses of other Netflix original features, the most glaring one being the lack of a coherent story structure. Again, featuring two alternate storylines simultaneously based on the different results of the same single event is a unique route of storytelling. However, the execution of this direction could have been better. For one thing, it seemed as if in implementing this narrative style, the film failed to convey any coherent kind of moral. For every narrative decision, there must be some type of desired effect to gain from it. It seems this film chose to go in this direction solely because the concept seemed interesting and original enough. While originality is never a bad thing, there must always be some type of underlying statement or message accompanying an intentionally distinctive artistic choice. For every “what” in storytelling, there should almost always be a “why”.
Returning to the broader issue surrounding Wilson’s character, the film was almost entirely lacking in any humor whatsoever. While it definitely maintained a warmer and more lively tone, the movie featured little to no comedic moments. This is not exactly an irredeemable drawback, as the film can certainly stand under the category of a light drama, but as a romantic comedy, it holds very little merit.
The biggest problem with the film is how devoid it is of any substantive conflict. Each of the two storylines tries to throw some obstacles in Nat’s way, but none of them are of any real consequence to her or her goals and instead only feel like minor setbacks that add little, if anything at all, to an already directionless plot. Going back to the film’s failure to clearly convey its message to the viewer, it missed a massive opportunity to do so impactfully. With the events of the past few months, this film could have used the story as an analysis of American reproductive rights. Centering the film around a sociopolitical issue currently at the forefront of American politics would have made the message surrounding the creative decision to cut between two alternate realities.
Unfortunately, the film squandered this opportunity by choosing to not go in this direction, leaving it as a merely unique idea for a synopsis that could have been executed a lot more effectively.
Cast: Lili Reinhart, Danny Ramirez, Aisha Dee, David Corenswet, Andrea Savage, Luke Wilson
Written by: April Prosser
Directed by: Wanuri Kahiu
By Nader Chamas
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.