By Elias Savada.
Love Type D is a light, silly satire that could use a little more development in its wacky plotline. Still, the feature debut from writer-director Sasha Collington does have its moments until it rushes to solve one big scientific riddle with a bit of madcap ho hum in its finish. This British entry revolves around a corny concept – a newly discovered “love” gene that can predict romantic success. For a portion (somewhere between a third and a fifth, depending on where you spot that fraction in the film) of the population, relationship failures can be precisely preordained. It’s a silly notion, but plays out well for most of this comedy, helped immensely by the fine rapport amongst its quirky cast members.
For 20-something Frankie Browne (Maeve Dermody) this genetic disorder explains a lot, especially in the opening scene, which plays quite cute and funny. As she waits for her boyfriend, Thomas Lacey (Oliver Farnsworth), in a nice London restaurant, a young, somewhat confident 11-year-old schoolboy arrives with a message. Not a very pleasant one at that. Wilbur (the adorably gifted Rory Stroud, veteran, as a toddler, of 36 episodes in the long-running BBC series EastEnders), Thomas’ half-brother, tells her she’s being dumped, and that’s where the “d” in Love Type D comes in.
To prove that she has this dreadful condition, Frankie starts recalling all the boys she’s loved (and lost) before, the whimsy turns to her younger 12-year-old self, portrayed by Natacha Basset, who reflects the regrets she made with her first. As her 20-something self grows more concerned, she turns to the Internet and watches flashy online commercials for the genetic company pushing the test. Ancestry (without the genealogy) on steroids. Tovah Feldshuh hawks the product as Dr. Elsa Blomgren, “Leading Scientist” with Epigenica. It gets uber promotional, claiming “state-of-the-art technology” while flashing the telltale DNA symptoms. These go a little overboard: chronic feelings of self doubt, childhood pets running away, losing at board games, etc. Even the extreme side-effects disclaimer pushes the satirical envelope, such as perpetual heartbreak and consuming two or more tubs of ice cream for breakfast. Later, the in-house questionnaire slathers on more such yucks.
Stroud sports an infectiously charismatic attitude (and a pair of off-kilter eyeglasses) that’s hard not to like, akin to Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates in last year’s Jojo Rabbit, but without the Oscar-winning writing. His nerdish Wilbur is an old-fashioned science geek who proves quite resourceful. He espouses a theory, complete with an analog slide show, that suggests the outcome of anyone’s first romance sets the genetic pattern. Maybe by revisiting her 12 previously failed relationships and dumping the dumper can she change the affected gene back.
Alas, what’s Frankie, a poor worker for an instruction manual company, to do? And therein the hijinks begin. The sad sack office staff apparently shares some of the same markers as Frankie. These folks and their shared, cubicle-heavy décor are very much like those found in The Office or 1999’s Office Space. These odd coworkers and their inane dialogue allows Collington’s script to playfully allow Frankie’s character to become participants in solving what initially appears to be an incurable condition.
The selected array of boyfriends defy stereotype but do provide for some severe embarrassment. She dated Oliver for five months, before he broke up with her via a song that went viral with four million views.
The script gets psychically clever when Frankie’s first bf is revealed to be dead and buried a decade earlier, although the supernatural slant does seem awkwardly handled as the bit grows longer.
For all its silliness, there is something endearing about the film, especially the earnest performance by Dermody, ably embracing Frankie’s a reluctant gung-ho determination without being too desperate or fragile or overly jealous, especially of Thomas’ current inamorata, a world-renown female astronaut Cecilia Scott (Alexandra Evans).
As the film nears it’s high point, it goes for a low blow, and more than a few viewers may wonder why this certain – and somewhat illegal – arc is taken as the means to an end.
Of course one of Collington’s favorite films is Penny Marshall’s Big, another film with a ridiculous concept that works wonderfully in its execution. If you like your whimsy served warm and comfortable, with a silly pinch of pheromonal unscrupulousness, Love Type D might be your tonic. Please note: Be careful about accepting scientific theories as fact. Here in Washington DC our politicians love to discount truths in big ways. Coincidentally the film fittingly closes this year’s DC Independent Film Festival. And thank you Sasha Collington for reminding us that gravity will end soon.
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the new documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).