Country Fried Retread: Our Review of ‘Forever My Girl’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 19, 2018
Country Fried Retread: Our Review of ‘Forever My Girl’

As the January blahs continue at the multiplex, with most of the country digging out of heaps of the old white stuff, Elevation Pictures is trying to give us a little southern sunshine in the form of the romantic comedy Forever My Girl, hitting theaters this weekend. The film comes from writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf, one of the writers and producers of the now infamously banned young Hollywood film Don’s Plum, but this time she’s shied away from the more edgier fare of the past in favor of a watered down familiar formula.

In one of the worst and quite frankly just useless tropes in romantic comedy history, Josie (Jessica Rothe from the surprisingly effective Happy Death Day and the upcoming remake of Valley Girl) is seen sitting in her wedding dress on her wedding day- only to be told that the groom is not showing up. Flash forward 8 years to the would-be groom Liam Page (The 5th Wave’s Alex Roe) on stage at a massive stadium concert as he has now become one of the biggest stars in country music. With his head still stuck in the past, Liam hears of the passing of his best friend in high school and heads back home to the small town in Louisiana for the first time since leaving the altar. Once he arrives, he soon learns Josie has a 7-year-old girl named Billy (Ant-Man’s Abby Ryder Forston), named after Liam’s deceased mother.

Forever My Girl is best described as the white bread of romantic comedies. There is not one false step put in this paint by numbers scenario as everything plays out exactly as you would expect from a film of this oeuvre. Of course, once Liam is back for an extended period, Josie starts to fall in love with him again- even though she clearly has every right to vilify his actions. Of course, Liam falls almost immediately for Billy, though Forston’s performance is utterly charming and the best the film has to offer. Liam’s father as the town preacher, begs the town to forgive his son one Sunday morning and of course, the town immediately tows the line. The film even goes out of it way to let you know from the very start that Liam still loves Josie, even though he got “lost along the way”.

As mentioned prior, Abby Ryder Forston is completely engaging here. In fact, the character of Billy is the best-written part of the film. Jessica Rothe is pretty much given nothing to do here, other than look pretty and unattainable until it’s time to not be, well that and occasionally stomp her foot in anger. Alex Roe mainly sits there with a blank stare on his face, coasting along in what I can only assume is a self-reflection of his investment in the material he’s presenting here. Director Wolf does sprinkle in a couple of quality character actors to add some gravitas with John Benjamin Hickey playing Liam’s father and the excellent Peter Cambor as Liam’s tour manager, but they are used far too little to be effective in the long run.

The biggest issue with Forever My Girl comes with the easy, predictable “moviefied” version of this story that writer/director chooses to tell. There was a better film that could have been spun here, and the film does have all the structure in place to tell it, so it’s ultimately a missed opportunity. With the strong performance coming from Forston, I’m not sure why the film doesn’t focus more on the connection between the father and daughter. Ultimately the relationship reconnection between the formerly betrothed feels forced and unearned, while the relationship between father and daughter shows real connection and promise.

Forever My Girl hints at the pedigree to tell a much more rich and satisfying story but opts for the opposite. It’s wonder bread wrapped up in the promise of the freshly baked marbled rye it could have been. And ultimately it goes down just as bland and inoffensively, with the audiences likely forgetting what they ingested by the time they hit the parking lot.

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