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‘I Want You Back’ Makes Me Want More

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I WANT YOU BACK will premiere exclusively on Prime Video February 11 in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide

Reviewed by Stacey Yvonne: You know the old story, boy meets girl, girl meets boy, original boy dumps girl and girl dumps boy and dumped boy and dumped girl concoct a plan to get their loved ones back!

Okay, so maybe not such a conventional story and it’s this uniqueness that makes the Amazon Prime original I Want You Back stand apart from normal romcoms. Sure, we’ve seen exes plot their beloved’s returns (or demises), but it’s not often we see it done with such heart and relatability. 

Jenny Slate and Charlie Day /Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Copyright: Property of Amazon Prime Video

The film follows Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) as they navigate through the five stages of heartbreak. Peter was in a six-year relationship with Anne (Gina Rodriguez) who leaves him for the more adventurous (and more lusciously locked) Logan (Manny Jacinto), a drama teacher at her school. Emma gets dumped over a brunch of steak and “lovers punch”. She feels that punch when her long-term boyfriend (18 months!) Noah (Scott Eastwood) trades her in for a more ambitious model (and baker and entrepreneur) Ginny (Clark Backo). 

Rounding out the cast is the always wonderful Dylan Gelula as Lisa, Emma’s roommate, and Mason Gooding as Paul, Lisa’s boyfriend. Both are pre-law and show a lot more maturity than Emma who feels aimless in the world. Emma’s brand is if “just figuring it all out” were a person. 

Emma and Peter meet in a stairwell and become friends due to their mutual melancholy. At first, the plan they set in motion seems healthy. They agree to call each other instead of their exes when they’re tempted to go and beg to be taken back. This works for a bit, but soon the temptation is too great. As they start to descend into the “bargaining” phase they hatch a plan to seduce the other’s partner and cause their exes to regret ever leaving them. 

Of course, the plan goes off without a hitch and they get back together! Sigh… if only it were that simple! Instead, the two go through a series of potentially demoralizing events that are so achingly cringe-worthy because they’re so relatable. The film is so enjoyable, fun, and heartwarming in a way that isn’t overly sentimental. 

This is thanks in part to a likable script from the writing team of Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger who are known for hits like This is Us and How I Met Your Father. With direction by Jason Orley, this movie only benefits from their enthusiastic team. 

Being Extremely Affable /Clip Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Copyright: Property of Amazon Prime Video

Another thing that works in the film’s favor is the effortless diversity. I’m always on the lookout for casts that are inclusive and representational. We meet Anne as she’s at a birthday party for her nephew. During the party, they sing Feliz Cumpleaños a Ti! and Peter fits right in. He’s not a fish out of water, he’s a part of the family, despite the fact that Anne is about to leave him. Backo’s character, Ginny is gorgeous and business-minded and not just a brainless thot. She’s a Black female character and not just what used to happen when Black people were on Gossip Girl

Logan is deliciously continental and his lack of real culture actually informs his character nicely. The film does a great job of weaving diversity in seamlessly. It’s nice to see people of color integrated into rom-coms and in a way that isn’t purely secondary or used solely as support to the white characters. Both Ginny, Anne, and even Logan have their own personalities (or lack thereof in one character’s case), their own ambitions, and their own support systems. It’s done well and could serve as a template for future productions.

At nearly two hours, you would expect the film to lag, but to its credit, it never really does. The central plot is the love stories, but there are side plots involving cameos by the wonderful Jami Gertz and Pete Davidson that keep you engaged. The humor can be raucous, there’s a scene where a character is forced to witness something soul-crushing, but it never feels lewd. There are some character development choices made near the beginning whose reasons are hard to parse out, but when you see the story unfold it all makes sense. Pretty much every T is crossed and every I is dotted. 

Performance-wise, everyone is spot on. Charlie Day brings his brand of manic enthusiasm, but it’s more grounded and appealing. Jenny Slate is a pro at sketch and improv and understands line delivery better than just about anyone. She’s truly a joy to watch, even when you just want to shake some sense into her! Manny Jacinto is truly a gift and he takes the relatively small amount of groceries he was given and makes it an entire meal. I honestly wouldn’t mind a spin-off movie with Logan. Dylan Gelula thrives when she’s reacting to nonsense with a put-off sort of dismissiveness. She and Mason are perfect, giving straight performances where their eyes tell the truth of their annoyance. Another example of having a relatively small part, but one that is impactful. 

Overall, I Want You Back is well worth the stream. It’s a movie that celebrates people and love and finally answers the question of what happens to a broken heart. I Want You Back premieres Friday, February 1tth on Amazon Prime. 

Score – 4/5

  • Directed by Jason Orley (Big Time Adolescence)
  • Written by Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger (Love, Simon writers and This Is Us co-showrunners)
  • Produced by Peter Safran and John Rickard of The Safran Company, Aptaker and Berger of The Walk-Up Company

Starring Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Scott Eastwood, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, Gina Rodriguez, Mason Gooding, Dylan Gelula, Jami Gertz, Isabel May, and Luke David Blumm

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