At some point during the romcom “About Fate” directed by Marius Vaysberg, the overkill of traits that two strangers (Emma Roberts and Thomas Mann) discover they have in common, goes from cutesy to disturbing.  Are these really coincidences? Or, more realistically, who’s stalking who?  The film has its funny moments, but romance is nowhere to be found.  As the story, written by Tiffany Paulsen, moves forward, plausibility runs for cover as the term “Catfishing” comes to mind.

Thomas Mann plays a young lawyer named Griffin who dates a social media influencer-model named Clementine (Madelaine Petsch).  He’s the quiet public defender type who probably doesn’t have an Instagram account and she’s the bubbly, self-centered yet adorable type who must share every moment with her followers to appease her brand sponsors.

Emma Roberts is Margo, a real estate agent who dates Kip (Lewis Tan), a building contractor and certified blackbelt.  Both couples find themselves at Bennigan’s on the same night.  Griffin hopes to continue the family tradition of popping the question at the restaurant chain.  He does and Clementine says “No” asking him to save the proposal for her New Year’s Eve party when it can be broadcast over social media.  At the same time, Margo is hoping Kip is going to pop the question — even though they’ve only been dating three months — but instead he breaks up with her and she throws a drink in his face.

The jilted duo meet briefly outside the restaurant after Clementine steals her Uber. Griffin remembers Margo from the fracas inside and asks if she needs help.  She replies, “Not unless you’ve got an engagement ring in your pocket.”  He does!   What a coincidence.  Hang on, we’re just getting started. 

The two meet again when Margo finds Griffin naked in her bed.  Turns out they both live at the same address, 115 Maple Drive in condos that look alike except his is in Norwood and she’s in Westwood (huh?). They have the same refrigerator and layout and almost the same décor, both have a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” poster on the wall.  Griffin comes home drunk and uses the spare key under the pot to get in. He takes a shower and falls asleep. When Margo comes home, she’s startled to find Griffin in bed and calls 911.  He assures her that he’s not a stalker and after a few movie references that include “Basic Instinct” and “Misery” she hangs up with 911 and sits next to Griffin on the bed as if they were close friends. 

Since none of this could ever happen in real life, I was hoping this was just a dream sequence. It isn’t.  Margo’s sister Carrie ((Britt Robertson) is getting married on NYE and she’s the Maid of Honor. Depressed because she has no date, Griffin agrees to accompany her posing as Kip until 8 pm when he must leave to make it over to Clementine’s party and pop the question.  You can just imagine what happens next.  Here’s a clue, the real Kip shows up at the wedding. 

For a romcom, there is no romance in the film.  The plot becomes more preposterous by the minute, leading to an encounter with an elderly couple celebrating their 58th Wedding Anniversary.  The lady recounts to Margo and Griffin how she and her husband met and that she wears her lucky pink coat every year on their anniversary since it played a vital role when they met. Then in a moment of disbelief, she gives Margo her coat so she can wear it to her sister’s wedding.  Griffin then gives the couple his credit card.  Dinner is on him.  He tells Margo he’ll just pick up the card later.

Apart from the film’s far-fetched plot, the chemistry between Mann and Roberts is non-existent.  Both are good actors but the contrast in personalities leads to some awkward moments.  She’s always in a heightened state of panic (energy level 10), imagine a sitcom minus the laugh track, while Mann’s delivery remains around a laid-back 4. 

“About Fate” is the kind of movie you expect to find around the holidays on the Hallmark Channel.  Russian filmmaker Marius Vaysberg takes too many shortcuts, and the plot feels rushed as does the production (Emma Roberts’ hair changes four times in one scene).  The writer-director known for his comedies in Russia which include “Hitler Goes Kaput!” “Love in the Big City,” and “Naughty Grandma,” delivers a mundane romcom that’s short on romance and laughs.    

(2 stars)

Now showing at the Angelika Film Center & Café (Dallas) and available PVOD

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Joe Friar head and shoulders

Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.