D: Jeremiah Chechik / 97m
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Sara Canning, Ryan McPartlin, Kristen Hager, James A. Woods, Raoul Bhaneja, Jennifer Baxter, Will Sasso, Catherine O’Hara, Mateen Devji, Maya Samy
The loser with a heart of gold is a staple of romantic comedies, but usually the loser is looking to better himself or is struggling to make it out of the dead-end job that is getting them down. They meet the girl of their dreams, spend ninety minutes (or more) trying to win them over (often without the girl knowing they’re even trying), adopt a self-deprecating yet hopefully endearing approach, and wait for the miracle moment when the girl finally realises she’s in love with them and they can head off into the sunset together. But what if the loser was happy with their dead-end job? And what if the loser isn’t looking to better himself, but has tried and is okay with his lack of success? And what if the girl of their dreams isn’t going to realise she’s in love with them… probably?
This is the twist that makes The Right Kind of Wrong one of the more enjoyable romantic comedies of recent years. The loser in this movie is Leo (Kwanten), a would-be writer whose refusal to change even one word of his first novel has left him without a book deal, and has stopped him from writing anything else. When his wife, Julie (Hager) tells him that she’s written a blog about him detailing all his faults – called Why You Suck – and that it’s becoming wildly popular, Leo is bemused but unfazed. His attitude changes, though, when she leaves him. Deflated and miserable, he stays at home watching Julie continue to character assassinate him in TV interviews, until one day he goes outside and sees Colette (Canning). He’s immediately attracted to her, but there’s a problem: she’s in her bridal gown and minutes away from getting married.
Undeterred, Leo attends the ceremony and sees her marry handsome lawyer Danny (McPartlin). He also meets Colette’s estranged mother, Tess (O’Hara). They hit it off and Tess takes Leo to the reception. There, Leo gets a chance to talk to Colette and wastes no time in telling her she shouldn’t have got married, and that she should be with him. Colette is less than amused by Leo’s nerve and he’s thrown out. Still not put off, Leo begins finding out more about Colette, and keeps “accidentally” bumping into her in town. He attends the tours she conducts around the local area, sees her stealing a newspaper on a regular basis, and enlists the help of his workmate Mandeep (Bhaneja) in letting Colette see he’s more than just a stalker. When Danny begins to worry about Leo’s influence on Colette, things take a more dramatic turn, and a work-related threat leaves Leo unable to continue following his heart, and Colette.
The central conceit of The Right Kind of Wrong – that the loser is happy with their lot and doesn’t care what people think about them – helps the movie tremendously, providing the basis for some unexpected dialogue and several saccharine-free exchanges between Leo and Colette. Megan Martin’s script, adapted from the novel by Tim Sandlin, makes a virtue of Leo’s idiosyncrasies despite his wife Julie’s disparaging blog (and later, bestselling book). Leo doesn’t expect a lot from life but he does know how to live his own life to his own level of satisfaction, and it’s this attribute that makes the movie more engaging than most recent romantic comedies; you’re never quite sure what Leo’s going to do or say next in his pursuit of Colette, and often he’s so lacking in guile it’s no wonder Colette keeps shooting him down.
Of course, the outcome of the movie is only occasionally in doubt, and there’s very little that’s new or different in the way that Colette and Danny’s marriage crumbles under the accumulated effects of Leo’s attentions. But there are a few developments and incidents that aren’t foreseeable, such as Leo being beaten up by a group of teenagers, or his connection with an albino bear. These add spice to the basic mix, as well as keeping some of the audience’s expectations firmly undermined. The supporting characters are given small moments to make their mark, in particular Neil (Sasso), Leo’s publisher friend who is paranoid about his wife’s upcoming gallery opening being a result of her affair with the gallery owner.
Some aspects don’t work so well. Colette and her mother are reconciled in two seconds’ flat; in a similar fashion, Julie has a change of heart about Leo near the movie’s end; and Leo’s juggling skills are abandoned after being prominently featured in the movie’s first half. Danny and his lawyer cohorts are severely underwritten (as played by Woods, Troy Cooper is like someone straight out of a National Lampoon movie), and Leo’s attempts to conquer his fear of heights ends with an entirely too predictable disaster. Chechik’s direction is solid if unspectacular, but he has a sure grasp of the dynamic that evolves between Leo and Colette, and their scenes together are wonderful to watch. Both Kwanten and Canning are a joy to watch, and there’s a definite chemistry between them that makes the will-they-won’t-they? developments work so well.
The Right Kind of Wrong won’t win too many awards (probably), but it’s a genuinely simple romantic comedy that takes its basic premise and spins it out with clear affection for its two lead characters and their predicament. If it sometimes seems a little contrived, this doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment the movie provides.
Rating: 7/10 – a robust but still lightweight endeavour that wins out because of its charm and the boyish enthusiasm of Kwanten; full of small surprises and a pleasant diversion if you’re in the mood for something both a little carefree and defiantly oddball.