He’s just a guy, staring at a girl, telling her that he loves her. Well, he’s actually a musician who sells out arenas, but the Notting Hill adage still applies. True love transcends stardom, class or race. It doesn’t matter how different people are — as long as they love each other, their relationship can overcome a tornado of difference. Anne Hathaway, the rom-com star of such classics as The Princess Diaries, is just the person to deliver this wonderful message, and her latest entry in the genre, The Idea of You, is a kismet connection of star and source material. 

The actress and her director Michael Showalter have managed to turn Robinne Lee’s novel about a celebrity vying for a suburban mom into a believable concoction of emotions. We never doubt for a second that Hayes would fall for Solene, partly because Showalter is a veteran of the genre (see: The Big Sick) and partly because Solene is played by Hathaway, who happens to be a gorgeous movie star. Shocker! The musician (Nicholas Galitzine) goes for a woman who looks like a supermodel. Hayes may be a fictional star, but Hathaway is very much a real star, and she doesn’t let you forget it for a second with her sexy bangs, sensual eyes and seriously sassy confidence. Of course Hayes would fall for Hathaway, the same way Roberts would fall for an everyman like Grant in Notting Hill

In most rom-coms, our engagement in a possible cinematic coupling is predicated on how believable the performances are. If the characters seem real, then audiences are likely to go along with something as outlandish as a porta potty meet-cute, which is how Solene meets Hayes. When she arrives at a concert with her daughter (Ella Rubin), she heads to the nearest bathroom and knocks on the door, then knocks on the door again as if audibly rolling her eyes. The door swings open and to her surprise, there stands Hayes in his trailer. Whoops! She’s entered a different kind of crapshoot. This one starts with a bathroom mixup and ends with Solene questioning whether she’s the one for Hayes or if some younger, slimmer, shallower woman might take her place.

It’s an enthralling cinematic traipse through a celebrity’s life that draws you in, sweeping you up in a catalog of concerts and hotel rooms where their bond is formed. There is a moment when things fall apart, however, and from that moment forward it’s more of a melodrama than a comedy, since Showalter hones in on the dark side of stardom, the gossip columns that diminish celebrities and the reality-shattering realization that everyone knows who you are. The novel was even more harsh about fame — as was Notting Hills second act — but Hathaway is an actress who can elevate any kind of fluff.

Yes, there are a number of beats in the screenplay that are treacly (some of the monologues about romance are really dumb) and many of the images feel hokey. But The Idea of You is so earnestly heartfelt and tenderly performed that it stirs your soul, reminding you that true love can happen to anyone as long as their love is true. 

The Idea of You review 02

(Amazon MGM Studios)

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