The latest Netflix interactive movie experience, Choose Love, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch? Or play it? Whatever the adjective is!
If you’re a person like me who grew up in the 80s & 90s, you might have a strong fondness for the Bantam Books series “Choose Your Own Adventure”, which allowed the reader to choose from a few options as to where the protagonist would go on the book’s particular adventure.
On one path, you could get into danger that would end your journey. On another, you could find your way to a safe and happy ending. Of course, we would cheat and go back and forth until we found the right answer, but that was all a part of the fun. After all, it was a game above all else.
In the past few years, Netflix decided that they wanted to try to recapture that experience through interactive original content on their platform.
Much like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, the genres in which the stories take place are not all the same. They’ve gone the PG scary route with the WWE haunted house horror co-pro Escape The Undertaker. They’ve done an 8 episode run of You vs Wild as you go on exotic adventures with Bear Grylls. Maybe their most notable interactive experience was a version of their hit show Black Mirror entitled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch which follows a young programmer as he attempts to adapt a dark fantasy novel into a video game.
Besides being an off-shoot from a popular show, Bandersnatch seemed to be particularly well received because of the many choices and potential for serious consequences that fans would trade stories with online. They were hungry to know what other conclusions were out there and which one was the best for the protagonist. Sorry, Black Mirror fans, you couldn’t just skip ahead like us CYOA heads.
While Netflix has produced several interactive projects, very few if at all have been geared towards female audiences. However, this weekend that will change with their latest Choose Love, which allows fans of more romantic-leaning genres to choose the type of man in which they believe is best for the protagonist to live happily ever after.
Helmed by Australian director Stuart McDonald (Netflix Original A Perfect Pairing), Choose Love follows the love life of one Cami Conway, a woman at the crossroads with her longtime boyfriend Paul and her career as a recording engineer after her singing dreams failed many years ago.
After a trip to a fortune teller, Cami is confronted with the possibility of three suitors that will compete in various ways for her affections: the steady boyfriend, the one that got away, and the charming rock star. With every choice you make as an interactive user, you guide Cami towards the decisions you think she should make in life and love, including conclusions for all three men and a potential 4th outcome that could be the best thing for Cami after all.
The project features Netflix rom-com staple Laura Marano (The Perfect Date, The Royal Treatment) as the indecisive Cami; as well as, “Greek” star Scott Michael Foster as her steady boyfriend Paul, former Power Ranger Jordi Webber as returned high school sweetheart Jack, and Victorious heartthrob Avan Jogia as famous rock star Rex Galier.
For those wondering if Choose Love will have the same critical and commercial positivity of Bandersnatch but with a swooning, amorous flavor, I would say, unfortunately, no.
While Bandersnatch had production value, audience interaction online and off, and real stakes for its characters, Choose Love has very little of any of that. The story is a very flat and largely joyous exercise in the least interesting archetypes of modern romantic movies. The interactive piece jumps in very quickly before its audience can even determine anything about Cami, her dreams, or her need for a mate. Even as you move through the decisions you make for Cami, it never seems like any decision is truly wrong or right for her. Every version of Cami’s tale is simply going through the motions of a passive sense of her own life before everything eventually works out. No stakes. No drama. Just choices.
My “Choose Your Own Adventure” past and my experience with some of Netflix’s previous interactive productions makes me think that even the die-hard TV rom-com addicts will have a hard time parsing through this one. All the characters are hollow & one-dimensional, while the dialogue & arcs seem to lack any punch or satisfaction.
The hardest thing to believe is that they didn’t have more fun with this movie. A little more ham & cheese, a little more sex appeal, a little more of anything that has worked for decades in any stereotypical rom-com would have benefited the film and the user experience greatly. If the character I’m choosing for can’t have fun doing it, why should I make it to the end? Let alone go back and try all the endings the film has to offer.
This seems more of a writing & construction issue more than performance as many of the leads seem to be trying anything to register an unforced emotion out of these chosen scenes.
The only performer who seems to be enjoying himself and accepting the right assignment is Avan Jogia as rock star Rex. While his dialogue may not be the strongest, Jogia’s ability to be playful, flirty, & consistent makes him more compelling than his suitor alternatives. His chemistry with Marano gives the movie much-needed life in all too few spots throughout.
Overall, Choose Love is a game not worth playing. While the timeless quandary of stability versus dream chasing is always relevant, the movie and its interactivity does all it can to drain the drama and softly bounce you from one mostly good option to the next. I expected more from the studio that almost single-handedly brought back the rom-com only a few years ago. If Netflix doesn’t know the formula to make this work, then I truly wonder whether it can be done.
Watch / Play Choose Love If You Liked
- Look Both Ways
- Purple Hearts
- Resort To Love
- The Royal Treatment
- A Perfect Pairing
MVP of Netflix’s Choose Love
Avan Jogia as Rex Galier
From his teen breakout role as Beck Oliver in Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” to his daliences with the undead in Zombieland: Double Tap and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, Avan Jogia has always given a little bit more bite and brood to add to his exceptionally handsome facade. With his rock star character Rex Galier, he seems perfectly casted as he seamlessly floats with his laissez faire, Peter Pan personality from city to city and enticement to enticement. Someone had to have some fun in this puzzling lifeless crusade and I’m glad it’s him.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
While some die-hard romance fans might find the interactivity enjoyable to pass the time, I think most would choose to stay away.