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Film review: Unexpected romance wins hearts in ‘The Idea of You’

Nicholas Galitzine (left) and Anne Hathaway (right) star as pop singer Hayes Campbell and divorcee Solène Marchand in “The Idea of You.” Based on the hit novel of the same name, the romantic comedy premiered on Prime Video this Thursday. (Courtesy of Alisha Wetherill/Prime)

“The Idea of You”

Directed by Michael Showalter

Amazon Studios

May 2

By Eric Sican

May 2, 2024 3:46 p.m.

This post was updated May 7 at 9:00 p.m.

Despite its cheesy dubiousness, “The Idea of You” formulates a satisfying romance.

The film adaptation of Robinne Lee’s contemporary romance novel of the same name had fan fiction enthusiasts swooning Thursday with a story of inevitable love between a 40-year-old divorced mother (Anne Hathaway) and a 24-year-old boy band superstar (Nicholas Galitzine). Released on Amazon Prime Video, the movie explores the difficulty of navigating a relationship involving dating a younger person who is also deeply embedded in the social spotlight. Although “The Idea of You” lacks a soundly composed plot, performances given by Hathaway and Galitzine steal the show.

[Related: Film review: Heady tennis romance ‘Challengers’ aces action-packed melodrama]

Lee’s novel blends both unrealistic occurrence and a very realistic romantic fantasy, in which Solène Marchand (Hathaway), a chic art enthusiast and gallery owner, falls into an amorous affair with Hayes Campbell (Galitzine), a much younger celebrity musician and national heartthrob. In spite of her confidence that her age plays a detrimental role in forming a relationship, Marchand and Campbell entertain their lusty attraction and engage with it playfully in this tear-jerking and flushing picture.

Known for his portrayal of middle-aged women coming to fruition with his previous films such as “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” director Michael Showalter unites his dedication to this sentiment with the favorable development of Solène. Showalter’s skill at separating the star power of Hathaway from the film, which otherwise would have taken away from the picture’s core intentions, masterfully constructs a picture that loosens awareness of the actors and instead turns focus to its characters. This sneaky withdrawal developed by Showalter fuses his undeniable competence with his respect for the novel’s perception without completely merging the two as one.

While the film constantly baffles the audience with the slim chance of its key moments ever happening in a real world – such as Marchand’s accidental stumbling upon Campbell’s private Coachella trailer – the picture redeems itself through the visible chemistry initiated by actors Hathaway and Galitzine. Specifically, Hathaway’s performance demonstrates her expertise as an actress showcased in her more serious roles previously, such as in the melodramatic film “Interstellar.” Rather, Hathaway evokes a delicately-charged role, reminiscent of her portrayal as Andrea Sachs in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Hathaway glides through the picture with a silky flirtatiousness, a product of her attuned perception of the romance genre. Seeming to never age, Hathaway as the Silver Lake gallery owner appears to at times distract viewers from the premise of the film, which emphasizes the relationship’s age difference. Simultaneously, it is not Hathaway’s ability to channel a younger self that heightens her performance, but her ability to tap into the experience of being a celebrity in the spotlight that brings this film to its peak. Overall, Hathaway molded the film through her shape-shifting capabilities to phase out her real identity as a celebrity and put on a facade of the opposite.

[Related: Film review: ‘La Chimera’ unearths drama, romance through dreamlike film sequences]

Underneath his awkwardly-placed tattoos and 2019 Harry Styles Pinterest-board-fashion inspiration, Galitzine’s portrayal of Campbell is broadly charming. From the very beginning of the film, Galitzine effortlessly captures the puerile yet mature nature that attracts Solène. Throughout the movie, Galitzine offers a coltish performance that infringes on Hathaway’s tantalizing demeanor, crafting an ideal dichotomy. Tapping into the mysteriousness most boy band lovers associate with their favorite member, Galitzine’s performance caters to an audience who, while aware of the impractical nature of Campbell’s relationship with Marchand, give into that guilty pleasure.

Much to the audience’s felicity, there is a purported implication that the film’s ending is made to alleviate some of the stress caused by the novel. With the book ending with Marchand’s ultimate decision to end the relationship with Campbell for her daughter’s well-being and some peace of mind, this adaptation follows up with a reunion scene five years later. As it plays into the picture’s quixotic identity, this choice gives the film a happy ending many fans may be content with.

“The Idea of You” and its indulgently sentimental, yet undeniably charming story ultimately champions the romance genre of film.

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Eric Sican | Lifestyle editor
Sican is the 2024-2025 lifestyle editor. He was previously an Arts contributor from 2023-2024. He is a third-year English student minoring in history from Los Angeles.
Sican is the 2024-2025 lifestyle editor. He was previously an Arts contributor from 2023-2024. He is a third-year English student minoring in history from Los Angeles.
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