Reel Women: ‘Save the Date’ Is So Relatable That You’ll Want to Dislike It
You know those movies where you relate so much to the characters and their emotional garbage that you almost want to dislike it for being so earnest? 'Save the Date' might be that film for you.
'Save the Date' is a film that is emotionally honest, avoiding typical movie relationship nonsense -- there's nothing saccharine or conventional, but there's also nothing too brash and mean. There are movies that deal in relationships in ways that are sickeningly familiar, where there's petty conflict and a cloying resolution, and then there are movies like 'Save the Date,' which give us flawed but tangible characters in incredibly relatable situations -- the kinds of situations that feel almost too close for comfort because a movie like this isn't interested in unattainable melodrama. At the core are two sisters, Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) and Beth (Alison Brie), both emotionally jumbled and fuzzy-headed women; but where Beth's attitude seems to have some motivation or origin, Sarah's hesitations about relationships are nebulous at best and appear to be solely selfish. And that's okay.
Some may take issue with the clumsy nature of the film's progression or the way that Sarah meanders listlessly through relationships, vacillating between genuine affection and devotion to her significant others and indifference. But the tone of the film mirrors Sarah's attitude, and it can be forgiven for its flaws, too -- like the slow walk it takes to get to its conflict, and the way it dampens that conflict with unnecessary and ancillary complications, like Sarah and Beth's parents separating as Beth is feverishly planning her wedding.
The big revelation in the third act is almost too stereotypical -- the idea is that Sarah is a person who is mired in her selfish desire to remain unchanged that she finds it hard to remain in relationships for too long. She takes things incredibly slowly, and when they get too serious for her liking, she bails, terrified that a relationship will rob her sense of self and independence. And the only way to fix that, in the film's point of view, is to confront Sarah with something which she has no control over -- a scenario that will force her to examine her views on relationships, and whether or not she's ready to compromise. While the conflict feels too familiar for a film that, for most of its runtime, seems to buck formulaic convention, there is seemingly no other way to inspire Sarah to change.
Compromise is a big word here -- not just in the film, but in relationships in general. It's difficult sometimes to compromise without feeling as though the other person or the relationship as an entity is asking you to forsake yourself. Most films are interested in exploring why their characters think and feel the way they do, but 'Save the Date' feels more genuine in the way it presents Sarah as someone who has no real reason to feel so hesitant about relationships other than the simple idea that she's become too familiar and comfortable with her life as is. She is content living alone with her cat and she doesn't feel as though anything needs to change. Why should it when everything is fine the way it's always been? But relationships are work, and they're complicated, and when you've become a creature of habit, it can be hard to break away from those habits without feeling as though you've been robbed.
But within every relationship there is compromise to be made, and the hardest part is realizing that meeting someone in the middle on mutual terms doesn't mean you're giving up a crucial part of yourself. You have to want to compromise and you have to ask yourself if this person is worth giving the effort. You don't have to make huge, life-altering changes, and a compromise does not mean you've signed an invisible contract that details a future of which you're uncertain. People like Sarah live their lives motivated by their own underlying fear, letting that fear breed indifference and dictate their behavior, closing their minds to possibilities -- and considering possibilities isn't the same as wholeheartedly committing to them. But that innate fear is so very basic and so natural that it becomes second nature, and it becomes easy to live in. Why take a risk when you can retreat to what has always been safe?
When her boyfriend proposes to her not long after she moves in (a monumental step for her), Sarah rejects him. When her new boyfriend tells her he loves her or performs considerate acts for her, she's indifferent. It's not their fault, yet the film doesn't ask you to condemn her, either. Her indifference is born of hesitation and a stubborn desire to maintain what is familiar -- there is no negative origin, and her selfishness isn't cruel. And that's what makes 'Save the Date' so damn relatable. It's this presentation of people who have feelings that are rooted in reality and not trussed up with heightened melodrama. These are people we know, people we are, and people we have been or will be.