Set it up (2018), American romantic comedy movie film directed by Claire Scanlon, written by Katie Silberman.
- Zoey Deutch as Harper, Kirsten’s assistant
- Glen Powell as Charlie Young, Rick’s assistant
- Lucy Liu as Kirsten Stevens, Harper’s boss
- Taye Diggs as Richard “Rick” Otis, Charlie’s boss
- Joan Smalls as Suze, Charlie’s girlfriend
- Meredith Hagner as Becca, Harper’s engaged roommate
- Pete Davidson as Duncan, Charlie’s gay roommate
- Jon Rudnitsky as Mike, Becca’s fiance
- Titus Burgess as Creepy Tim, Janitor
- Noah Robbins as Intern Boy
The plot follows two hard overworked assistants who try and set up their demanding bosses on dates. The film was released on June 15, 2018, by Netflix.
Harper (Zoey Deutch) is the 25-year-old assistant to Kirsten (Lucy Liu) a former journalist and now editor of an online sports journalism empire.
Charlie (Glen Powell) is also a 28-year-old assistant to the high-strung Rick (Taye Diggs) who works in finance. Both work in the same building and meet one night when their bosses need dinner.
Harper has ordered dinner for herself and Kirsten but has no money to pay for it and Charlie, who has waited too long to order food, pays for it to give to Rick. After Harper tells him she will be fired if she doesn’t return with food Charlie reluctantly allows her to take one of the meals.
Meeting Charlie the next day to reimburse him for the cost of the food, Harper expresses surprise that Charlie would work for such an abrasive and demanding boss. Charlie reveals that Rick is well-connected and a recommendation from him would guarantee his financial success.
Harper expresses her deep admiration of Kirsten and her desire to write the sort of sports journalism that would make people cry. After complaining that they have no time for personal lives, Charlie jokes that both of their bosses need to get laid.
Harper is initially disgusted by the comment, but after some thought agrees that she and Charlie should Cyrano their bosses, reasoning if they are dating each other they would have less time for work. Charlie reluctantly joins in on the plan.
Their initial plot to have Rick and Kirsten “meet-cute” in a stalled elevator goes awry when they are joined by a delivery man suffering from claustrophobia who strips the second the elevator is stalled.
Charlie and Harper then arrange for their bosses to sit beside each other at a baseball game, bribing the operator of the kiss-cam to pressure them into kissing. After three attempts, Rick and Kirsten kiss. They begin dating, leaving Charlie time to spend with his model girlfriend Suze, and Harper time to date.
However things between Rick and Kirsten quickly become bumpy causing Harper and Charlie to realize they must work hard to keep their bosses together.
They plan dates, write apology notes, and manipulate the dates to coincide with events that Charlie and Harper want to attend. After organizing a weekend getaway for Rick and Kirsten, Harper is able to attend her best friend Becca’s engagement party.
When her date ditches her, Charlie goes with her and the two have an enjoyable night dancing and eating pizza. After their vacation, Rick and Kirsten return and inform their assistants they are engaged.
Harper and Charlie are thrilled by the news, but Charlie quickly learns that Rick proposed to Kirsten to aggravate his ex-wife whom he is still sleeping with. Charlie doesn’t share the news with Harper, but she discovers it after accidentally hearing Rick having phone sex with his ex.
She confronts Charlie with Rick’s cheating and is disappointed to learn that he knew about it and that he plans to help manage Kirsten and Rick’s marriage so the cheating remains a secret
. Harper goes to Kirsten and explains that she and Charlie manipulated them into dating. Harper tries to say that Rick is cheating with his ex-wife, but is unable to say this because Kirsten promptly fires her and plans to go on with the wedding.
Charlie takes Suze to an expensive restaurant and realizes they don’t love each other. He breaks up with her and runs to the airport where he quits his job and tells Kirsten that Rick doesn’t love her and doesn’t know her at all. Kirsten realizes it’s true and breaks up with Rick.
Harper goes through a crisis but eventually decides to start writing again. Charlie is approached by Rick who asks for his help reuniting with his ex-wife whom he actually still cares for. Charlie turns over a folder he has on Rick’s ex-wife.
Kirsten calls Harper back to her office and offers to hire her back, but Harper refuses, telling her she needs to focus on her writing. Kirsten offers to help edit her article.
As she is leaving, Harper sees Charlie who has been called there by Kirsten. They realize that Kirsten is attempting to set them up. Charlie reveals that he quit his job and now works as a temp.
The two of them realize they have many reasons to dislike each other and yet they are still attracted to each other. The film ends with the two sharing a kiss, after realizing how much they care for each other.
The romance comdedy genre has pretty much died off in the past decade or so. There are occasional moments where it rears its head, but for the most part, too many stale entries rendered it into self-parody, and because (gasp) it wasn’t directed primarily at young men, the only demographic, worth serving for Hollywood, there wasn’t much of an impetus to make more.
Thankfully, Netflix doesn’t have to worry about those trends so much and can appeal to “niche” (if you can call one of the most popular genres for decades a niche) audiences, which they’ve done so perfectly with Claire Scanlon’s Set It Up.
Although it plays by the standard beats of the romcom, it still stretches with witty jokes and outstanding performances from its lead actors. Set It Up doesn’t reinvent the genre as much as it reminds us why we missed it so much. Set in a world where every executive treats their assistant like garbage, we follow two such beleaguered assistants.
Harper (Zoey Deutch) is an aspiring journalist who has become stuck working for the brilliant but vicious Kirsten (Lucy Liu), a celebrated sports journalist who runs her own media empire. Charlie (Glen Powell) works in the same building and for the callous, petty venture capitalist Rick (Taye Diggs). After a meet-cute of their own, Harper and Charlie conspire to set their bosses up together.
If their bosses are off having sex, that gives Harper and Charlie the free time they so desperately crave. However, as they spend more time conspiring, Harper and Charlie start to fall for each other.
If you’ve seen a romcom before, you can pretty much set your watch by how Set It Up will play out. But playing by familiar beats isn’t a dealbreaker when you play them well. Katie Silberman’s script knows how romcoms go, but it’s filled with so many clever jokes and witty repartee that you won’t mind that you can see the twists and turns coming from a mile away
. We watch thrillers to be surprised; we watch romcoms to be comforted, and you could wrap Set It Up around you like a warm blanket. The movie doesn’t want to surprise you, but instead remind you why you dug romance comedy in the first place without being painfully self-aware or constantly winking at the audience.
It’s not trying to deconstruct the genre, but rather remind us why we fell in love with it in the first place. It doesn’t hurt that the film has two heavy hitters with Deutch and Powell. I’ve been a big fan of their work in previous films (Deutch for the underrated Vampire Academy, Powell for his small supporting turn in Hidden Figures, and both in Everybody Wants Some!!), and they both get a chance to shine here.
It’s not that they’re channeling other romcom stars as much as they find their own chemistry and approach to the characters. If you told me tomorrow that Deutch and Powell were signed up for a series of Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan-esque romcoms, I’d watch every single one of them.
Deutch always bring a bit of an edge to her characters that stops them from being too bubbly, and and Powell is debonair and comes right to the edge of being too cocky. They’re both stars waiting to happen, and hopefully Set It Up is a boon to their careers.
The film doesn’t hold together perfectly (as it nears the second act turn and the conclusion, it starts to falter a bit with choices that don’t really support the characters’ personalities), but it’s strong enough to remind us that the romcom genre is far from dead as long as talented people continue to invest in it.
Hollywood may have decided that there’s no room for romcoms, but Set It Up shows there’s plenty of life left in the genre when you’ve got strong writing, sharp direction, and killer leads. If you’re looking for a date night at home, you need to add Set It Up to your Netflix list right now.
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