Another COVID-19 movie is upon us, and it’s as misguided and senseless as the previous ones. This time, however, we’ve got a cheeky romantic comedy featuring two bland leads as they swerve around a boring plot until they inevitably fall in love with each other. Take the COVID aspect of the film aside, and Alone Together is still the dullest romantic comedy made in recent memory.
The most appalling aspect of Katie Holmes’ latest directorial (and scriptwriting effort) is how she will constantly remind audiences that while the two leads (played by Holmes & Jim Sturgess) are falling in love and enjoying their time locked down together, hospitals are over-capacity. Archival audio from former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo plays as he urges New Yorkers to isolate, stay home, and “flatten the curve” while thousands of people are getting sick, hospitalized, and dying.
There’s something incredibly egregious about making a “sweet and loving” romantic comedy when you keep reminding audiences that the lead characters, June and Charlie, are living through a pandemic of a virus that is infecting, disabling, and killing millions. Which target audience will find the appeal? People that want to re-live one of the darkest periods in human history? As much as some have thrived during lockdown, gained new capabilities, and perhaps started a relationship, others sunk in depression or were personally affected by having a loved one (or a friend) infected or, worse, dying of COVID. If they did not die, many have developed long COVID, which is currently affecting millions of people worldwide.
So why on earth would you make a film capitalizing on real human suffering and loss? Oh, it’s great that the characters magically end up on the same Airbnb during lockdown, which forces them to get to know each other and inevitably fall in love. Still, the fact that Holmes consistently recalls the real suffering brought upon by COVID through archival audio lurking in the background makes it an utterly shameful film. Holmes is a talented actor, and she could direct a decent movie with suitable material. But the constant recalling of COVID, during scenes where the characters talk about binge-watching TV or how long the lockdown will last while people are dying, makes the entire thing feel like a desperate attempt at emotional manipulation.
And that gets affirmed when June’s boyfriend, John (Derek Luke), comes to the Airbnb during one of the film’s final scenes and tells her that his father died of COVID. Why does he tell her that? So that she can come back to him. Literally–June dumps John during the lockdown, as she starts to fall for Charlie, who is too charming to be true and doesn’t feel like John will make her happy. So she leaves him a message, telling him that they need a break and that should be the end of it.
He returns and tells her he lost his father, and the two are a couple again. Imagine using the death of a close one to get back to your ex—that’s some manipulative stuff right there. And then there’s an entire final act devoted to John gaslighting June until she realizes that he was never good enough to her and that she’s better off with Charlie. But the catalyst for them getting back together is a COVID-related death. There’s something so jaw-on-the-floor, unbelievably inconsiderate about using COVID, throughout the film, as pure, emotional manipulation. Yet Holmes does it constantly, whether it’s to get characters back together or to use it to remind audiences that the characters are alone, people are dying, and there’s nothing they can do for a long time.
So the logical step is that they should end up together. It would’ve been fine if the actors had any on-screen chemistry, but they don’t. Their chemistry is as flaccid as watching paint dry on a wall for three hours. It never blossoms the way an on-screen couple should or gives no other reason as to why they love each other apart from the fact that they are in lockdown. The supporting actors are as flat as its leads, with Melissa Leo and Zosia Mamet completely wasted in “remote” roles, as they robotically deliver lines of dialogue that could’ve been cut from the film and changed nothing to the overall story. Leo & Mamet are usually great on screen, but their disinterest in the material is shown clearly, as they both sleepwalk through their lines.
One could say that the entirety of Alone Together is a sleepwalk, which would be correct. Holmes’ filmmaking skills are beyond inept, utilizing the most standard, cut-and-paste aesthetic possible while manipulating audiences to care about their characters as they go through COVID. News flash: as much as no one wants to hear it, we are still going through a global pandemic of a virus that is still infecting thousands of people daily. The movie would’ve been a bland, but watchable rom-com had the COVID aspect of it been completely removed. Adding the lockdown as a catalyst to their relationship does not make Alone Together special. It just makes it wholly senseless and embarrassing. Hopefully, Hollywood enacts a moratorium on COVID-related movies (unless directed by Steven Soderbergh) before another one of those ignominious productions comes out.
Director: Katie Holmes
Stars: Katie Holmes, Jim Sturgess, Derek Luke, Melissa Leo, and Zosia Mamet
Runtime: 101 minutes