By: Ashley de Sampaio Ferraz, Staff Writer
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to dive into the world of romantic comedies. Thankfully, “Falling Inn Love,” released on Netflix back in August, popped up in my “recommended” list just in time. With a name as cheesy as all the best rom coms are, I was excited to see if this feel-good flick would live up to my expectations.
“Falling Inn Love” tells the story of Gabriela Diaz, a home designer with a passion for eco-friendly renovations who works for a corporate office in San Francisco. Amidst abruptly losing her job due to the company’s liquidation, and in dealing with her boyfriend’s commitment issues, Diaz drunkenly enters a contest online to “Win an Inn,” located in the New Zealand countryside. Much to her surprise, she wins the contest, and flies to New Zealand to see her new inn.
In an odd turn of events, Diaz finds that her newly acquired land, Bellbird Valley Farm, has been neglected for many years. Not one to back down from a challenge, she decides to tackle the beaten down building head on. Townie Jake Taylor, who is a contractor and volunteer firefighter, offers to help her fix up the inn.
As Gabriela and Jake get closer as they work on the inn, she finds herself contemplating whether to return to “real life” in San Francisco to her boyfriend, or stay in New Zealand. What ensues is a classic will-they, or won’t-they situation, one that is made better by the undeniable chemistry between the two main characters.
“Falling Inn Love ” is exactly what it sounds like: a predictable love story packed with cliché after cliché. Yet, I wouldn’t call it a “bad” movie. The movie definitely gets some things right, and, however unsurprising, leaves its viewers with a warm fuzzy feeling in their hearts.
One aspect of this movie that I would like to applaud is the use of a non-white main character. Christina Milian, the actress who portrays Gabriela in the movie, is a Latina woman who clearly does not fit into the cookie cutter, young white lead role that we as consumers are so used to seeing in traditional romantic comedies. This was a refreshing change, as underrepresented populations deserve to see themselves in main roles where the movie’s plot and conflict has nothing to do with their race.
I also enjoyed how the writers made Gabriela to be a strong woman who, at first, has issues with accepting help from others because she doesn’t want to seem “weak” or “vulnerable.” As a woman, this is often a position I find myself in; should I ask for help when I need it, or will that lead my fellow peers to assuming I am helpless? Should I confirm the bias that society has placed in their minds? These are questions many women across the world have to ask themselves when approaching a situation, whether it be at a job, at school, or otherwise.
Behavior and gender ponderings aside, another aspect of “Falling Inn Love” I enjoyed was how well it committed to its location, providing its viewers with long sweeping shots of the New Zealand countryside and using dialogue with words and phrases that a typical Kiwi, or New Zealander, may use. I, of course, am not from New Zealand, so I do not feel that I have the authority to declare that this movie portrays the country perfectly. Actually, I’m sure it doesn’t. It does, however, give its viewers the opportunity to see a country that they may have previously known nothing about, and I believe that constitutes a success.
So, is “Falling Inn Love ” a cinematic masterpiece? No, not even close. This movie is for those who want to sit down and feel comfortable, to relax and escape from the struggles of daily life for a little. If I’m being honest, at some points during its 98-minute runtime, I found myself losing interest in Gabriela’s main conflict: if she should commit to running the inn or return to her life in the States. Her indecisiveness is apparent as she attempts to navigate her relationship with Jake, and after a while I just wanted her to make up her mind and choose who she wanted to be with and where she wanted to stay.
Overall, I think many of the issues I have with this film can be traced back to one reason: romantic comedies have become incredibly formulaic. While watching this movie, I was reminded of ten others I have seen with similar story arcs. In fact, if you enjoy this movie, I have to recommend “Leap Year” starring Amy Adams. It is truly the same plot, although the main character visits Ireland instead of New Zealand and she has slightly different motivations for falling for the sexy love interest (who, of course, also has an accent).
This rom-com satisfied my desire for a cutesy, slightly over-the-top movie with a location that is still very different from the classic New York City setting we so commonly see in these films. It was an excellent Valentine’s Day watch, as it reminded me of how lucky we are to be able to cherish love as the messy emotion that it is. Watch this movie if you’re looking to spend the next couple hours relaxing and not thinking too hard. Who knows, the romantic in you might just enjoy it.