Adam Devine plays Noah in the new Netflix original movie When We First Met. At a college party one night he meets Avery (Alexandra Daddario) and the two hit it off immediately. After hanging out and getting to know each other Noah is about ready to take it to the next level when she makes it clear she’s not interested in anything romantic. Three years later as she’s about to marry another guy, Noah is feeling sorry for himself but finds a way to travel back in time to the day they met, giving him infinite chances to change things and make a relationship with Avery happen. It doesn’t go well.
Yes, someone made a movie about the “friend zone,” that penalty box men (and women sometimes) feel they’ve been put into when they want to make something happen but the other party doesn’t feel the same. I’m not going to lie to you…this is going to get rough.
All three of the leads are shown on the one poster created by Netflix, with Devine resting his head on Daddario’s shoulder while she’s leaning the other way to embrace Amell. So we get that Noah is the third wheel here, an impression reinforced by the copy explaining the story: “All he needs is a second chance to be her first choice.”
The first trailer is…well, it’s a little uneven. When we start, Noah meets Avery at a party in college and the two hit it off, going on to spend lots of time together. But at the pivotal moment, he gets hugged instead of kissed as she tells him he’s a great friend. This leads to three years of misery for Noah that comes to a head when Avery is about to get married and he pines for what might have been. When he goes to a photo booth they once visited together and drops a coin in. Suddenly he finds himself transported back to the night they met, apparently given the opportunity to do things differently. Things don’t go smoothly and he tries over and over again to get it right.Ooof. OK. Let’s take a breath and talk about what’s going on here.
First off, the low-hanging fruit. We’re basically remaking About Time, the 2011 film with Domhnall Gleason where he enters a cupboard and goes back in time to try to engineer the perfect relationship with the girl of his dreams, played by Rachel McAdams. The magical carnival trick also, of course, evokes Big. So we’re dealing with quite a bit of derivative material here.
Now here’s the big one: We’ve been having a conversation about how sexist and kind of terrible the concept of the “friend zone” is for a couple years now. It’s been decided by most right-thinking people that the term is pretty offensive in that it implies some sort of contract has been broken or expectation unmet when a guy likes a woman but she doesn’t reciprocate. It assumes she has no voice or agency and must go along with what the guy wants because oh, he worked so hard and she should be “nice.” There are too many examples in the real world where Noah doesn’t get a magical second chance but instead is angry over being friendzoned and having his masculinity threatened, eventually shooting Avery with an AR-15 outside her apartment.
So no, the trailer doesn’t play well at this moment. 10 years ago, this would have seemed innocuous and fine. We (at least many of us) know better now.
Online and Social
Nope, as usual Netflix hasn’t done anything here.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Samesies, a big goose egg.
Media and Publicity
Not much here, either. Daddario spoke here about how much she loves rom-coms and how this was a unique twist on the formula. That’s fine, but we literally *just* went through the publicity for The Big Sick, which was an actual fresh take on the genre that didn’t come loaded down with so many creepy tropes. Precisely the existence of those tropes, as well as the continued rehashing of the “friend zone” idea that’s predicated on men being owed something, generated coverage of the trailer that wasn’t wholly positive.
You *know* the only way this got made is because the writer also worked on both The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie and so was seen as a viable talent to work with. I just…I can’t believe that this was considered an attractive story for someone to make in 2017. It seems like a feature-length version of a rant your buddy would go on in a bar about how women never want the nice guys and always go for the hot ones. The problem is, now we know those rants, while often just someone letting off steam, sometimes turn more violent.
What Noah is doing in the movie is a mix of stalking and emotionally manipulating Avery, neither of which is cool. He wants to be sad, he can be sad. What’s shown in the trailer takes it to a level we now identify as creepy and potentially dangerous.
It’s great that Netflix is rescuing or producing so many mid-grade comedies, dramas and genre flicks. Not all those may be “great” films, but they’re enjoyable enough. Maybe it should have left this script on the discard pile, though, as it certainly seems to run counter to the culture we’re trying to have here.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.