« Asking a Lot | Main | Trans Mission »

She's Out of His League


Tribeca Festival


Winter Spring Summer or Fall (2024)

The story of an average Joe being in love with a woman way out of his league is nothing new. It’s like every Woody Allen movie ever. Or Adam Sandler. Or Judd Apatow. And so on. This is a trope, or maybe an entire genre, in Bollywood and its adjacent film industries – the impossible intercaste relationship dynamic – and yet somehow it never seems to get old over there because they’ve discovered the formula for making viewers’ cheeks blush and hearts flutter. “Winter Spring Summer or Fall,” which has its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival, gives this premise the Y.A. treatment.

Jenna Ortega plays Remy, the Ivy League-bound overachieving student in Essex County, New Jersey, who has just given a local news interview about her Google internship or some such. Off the TV camera, she is concerned about the optics of having referred to other student finalists as her “peers.” Across the street, P. J. (Elias Kacavas) tells a very attracted Barnes (Percy Hynes White) that Remy is a snob who hangs out mostly with her parents.

She’s off to the city on her own to check out the Columbia campus. Her parents have packed Mace in her backpack. It’s supposed to show that they are overbearing, but it’s really a very sensible thing to do; just ask any New Yorker. Of course, Barnes happens to board the same train and proceeds to make his move. And this is only the second scene.

Barnes is cringe though. Like, he has the cojones to point out to Remy that, aside from being the straight A student, she also has that Latine thing going for her. Normally this level of microaggression would immediately raise red flags for any person of color – and surely Remy sticks her headphones back in. Barnes is persistent though, which to us moviegoers looks like an entitled child who won’t stop making a scene until he gets his way.

Nothing happens until they meet again at their prom (that inexplicably looks like it was shot during the day), not as each other’s dates but hoping to run into each other anyway. She finally accepts his invitation to a hole-in-the-wall sushi joint, where he impressively converses with the chef in Japanese and requests omakase. Not sure about Essex County, but in New York City omakase can run anywhere from $54 to $950 per head. So, Barnes is clearly well off but chooses to squander his privileges – white, cishet and rich – to be a ne’er-do-well.

This is the problem with “Winter Spring Summer or Fall” in a nutshell. It’s a movie made by and for people with extremely limited real-world experiences. The New York City looks nothing like New York City. New Jersey Transit doesn’t look like New Jersey Transit. Penn Station doesn’t look like Penn Station. The Harvard campus is basically two vinyl Harvard University banners draped over a nondescript brick building. It comes as no surprise when end credits reveal the film was entirely shot in Utah. It’s as if the art department and the location scout weren’t even really trying. And yet they have the audacity to premiere it at Tribeca for real New Yorkers to scrutinize and rip to shreds.

Ms. Ortega is the only thing “Winter Spring Summer or Fall” has going for it. To be sure, this isn’t any sort of award-bait star vehicle. She’s as adorable and photogenic as can be; and that’s about it. Same cannot be said about Mr. Hynes White, also her “Wednesday” costar, who merely embodies all the unearned privileges Barnes has.

The presence of Ms. Ortega notwithstanding, actor-turned-screenwriter Dan Schoffer and screenwriter-turned-director Tiffany Paulsen have managed to slap together an afterschool TV special, complete with a super awks convo about sex when Remy’s parents aggressively supply her with condoms before prom. Indeed, anyone older than 17 and experienced in life to some extent knows that no one would throw away their carefully curated future for a mid-looking loser.


Post a comment

This weblog only allows comments from registered users. To comment, please Sign In.

© 2008-2024 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on X
Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions | Powered by TypePad