During the '90s and early '00s, rom-coms were everywhere; seriously, it felt like every millennial's coming of age was set to a Drew Barrymore- or Meg Ryan-led movie. These days, though, there's a major rom-com shortage. As LA Weekly reports, while each year in the late '90s saw at least a few rom-coms in the top 20 box office performers, recent years have seen not one rom-com make the cut in those lists. Simply put, mainstream rom-coms have all but disappeared. But on June 15, there'll be a new movie out on Netflix, Set It Up, that might bring back the rom-com for good — or at least that's what star Zoey Deutch hopes will happen.
"I don’t have delusions of grandeur and I certainly have a cynical side to me so I wouldn’t say this lightly, when I say I think this movie will inspire a revamp of rom-coms," Deutch says, speaking over the phone in mid-June.
The actor might be right; Set It Up, about two overworked assistants (Deutch and Glen Powell) who conspire to set up their bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs), combines some of the genre's most loved tropes. "[The movie] belongs to the most cherished of rom-com traditions, [like] the New York story, which I love," Deutch explains. There's also women working in media, a few serendipitous run-ins, and even a kiss cam — in other words, Set it Up is filled with all the features that classic rom-com fans know and love.
Like many fans of the genre, Deutch is frustrated that rom-coms are so much less common these days than they were in the past. "There was a real golden age of rom-coms and then, like anything good, it gets over-done and I think they became so formulaic," she says. And then, as we all know, the genre went out of fashion, much to audiences' disappointment. Even Chrissy Teigen misses the golden age of rom-coms, tweeting in March, "Where are all the rom coms? There is a shortage of rom coms and thus a shortage of my happiness."
Deutch, who responded to Teigen's tweet with a promo for Set it Up, completely understood the superstar's feelings. "She spoke to what everybody else was thinking and wanting," says the actor. "She’s the voice of a generation." Later, Deutch posted that Teigen's tweet was even included in a marketing presentation at Netflix's headquarters, showing that the streaming platform was taking the concern seriously.
As the passionate response to Teigen's tweet showed (fans felt her), an increase in modern rom-coms would be very much embraced. Recent box office wins have proved that people will head to the theaters for a funny, romantic tale; just take the success of The Big Sick, for instance, or I Feel Pretty, which did well financially despite mixed reviews. Clearly, people want to see new takes on the same kind of love featured in classics like You’ve Got Mail, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Jerry Maguire.
And those "new takes" might now include new platforms, such as Netflix. As Deutch notes, Set It Up is the perfect movie to mark a new era of rom-coms since it comes out online immediately. "With Netflix, it’s extended and available for audiences whenever they want to watch," she explains. "And for this kind of movie, you want to be able to be like, ‘oh f*ck I had a bad day, I want to just lay in bed and have a glass of wine and watch Set it Up."
In other words, you can plan to watch and re-watch the fun movie as soon as it hits Netflix on Friday. And according to Deutch, that kind of lighthearted rom-com couldn't be more perfect for the current climate, either. "We’re in such a time of political unrest and we all feel like floundering and like, what the f*ck is going on?" she says. "I just I wanna watch things [like Set it Up], I want to escape... I just want to laugh."
Deutch's performance as the expressive and impulsive Harper in Set it Up provides much of the movie's humor, but the fact that actors like Pete Davidson and Tituss Burgess have supporting roles helps up the comedic factor, too. Scene-stealing characters are features of classic rom-coms, but one way in which Set it Up is more modern than its predecessors is that much of the film focuses on its female characters' careers. Liu's character, for instance, deals with romance only when she's not busy running a wildly popular sports publication, while Deutch's Harper works to build up her own resume.
"One thing that I did love about this movie is that I think it highlights something that’s really hard for me to articulate or understand... and I wish that this was more normalized especially for women — that it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive that you can be successful in your career and be happy with a partner," Deutch says.
If Set It Up does indeed usher in a new renaissance of rom-coms, they likely will include more characters like Harper who know that seeking out romance doesn't have to mean giving up on your other dreams. And that just makes the genre even easier to love.