Two decades after She's All That, The Baby-Sitters Club and Josie And The Pussycats, Rachael Leigh Cook has returned to take the throne of queen of romantic comedy in Netflix's latest original A Tourist's Guide To Love. But is it a little too late?
Directed by Steven Tsuchida (Life-Size 2, Resort To Love), A Tourist's Guide To Love is about Amanda Riley (Rachael Leigh Cook), an executive for a professional travel company who's recently ended a relationship with her boyfriend of five years. To get over the breakup, Amanda accepts an assignment to go undercover and scout the potential purchase of a tour company. Upon arrival at the airport, she meets charming Vietnamese tour guide Sinh (Scott Ly) who takes her and the tour members on a journey that captivates her. Amanda soon finds her rigid routine slowly becoming more flexible as she enjoys wonderful times in the city with a new friend. However, she has to maintain professional cover while on the trip, and it becomes increasingly harder to do as she develops an inevitable romance with her tour guide.
As the title suggests, A Tourist's Guide To Love is exactly like that. This movie is direct in its message and there's nothing complicated. I had a pretty good idea of what kind of movie this was going to be, and it ended up being just that. This is a Vietnamese travel romance where a girl goes to another country to find herself and ends up finding love in the process. It has all the elements and clichés of a romcom that we have seen Netflix produce every month.
At first glance, it's easy to fall in love with the visuals, especially for those who love travelling. The scenery of each Vietnamese location is gorgeous and well-shot, which gives us a taste of a rich culture that isn't touched by English-language films.
The soundtrack is another highlight as it collects vintage 50s and 60s Vietnamese pop and rock that suit the countryside views. Not only does the group visit numerous places like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, they also enjoy several activities like traditional puppet shows, dances and a festival. All of these things help make up for the mediocre romance. However, though every production that showcases Vietnam and its magical beauty has an advantage, the rest of the film suffers from a poor, predictable script and bad character development. Without a decent story, the movie feels somewhat like a sponsored ad by the Tourism Board of Vietnam.
Despite being a romantic movie, I found myself bored in most scenes due to the lack of chemistry between the two lead actors, Cook and Ly. The formulaic romance storyline was bland as well. Their interactions feel very forced, their lines sound meaningless most of the time, and how the two end up together is incredibly clichéd. Cook isn't a bad actor by any means, but it feels like she just does not have that factor any more in her mid-40s. She is also a producer for this film, and I'm confused as to why she is cast in these romantic comedies. Scott Ly's character as Sinh is also very bland. He never goes through any sort of arc in the movie and although he is likeable enough, he is unable to hold attention or to draw the audience in.
Besides the two lead characters, there's a handful of others in the story, but they all end up feeling like cardboard cutouts, especially people in the same group tour. Even Missi Pyle, who worked with Cook in Josie And The Pussycats, who plays the role of Amanda's boss and best friend Mona, adds no contribution whatsoever to the plot other than being on the phone with Amanda at times.
Everything about the story just feels slower than necessary. The romance itself takes a long time to happen, and the overarching conflict where Amanda hems and haws to take over Sinh's company feels like it could have ended a lot sooner than it did.
There's not much else to say about A Tourist's Guide To Love other than it is a generic romcom with simple messaging behind it, such as starting over, realising one's true potential, and trying to make the most out of one's life in general. These are all things that have been done to death and it seems they won't be going away soon.
- A Tourist’s Guide To Love
- Starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Scott Ly, Missi Pyle
- Directed by Steven K. Tsuchida
- Now streaming on Netflix