I’ve been rooting for Scott Eastwood for quite a while but I’m starting to think I need to stop. Scott is the son of Clint Eastwood, one of the greatest living directors and actors. I had hoped that Scott would follow a similar career track to his father and find a voice as a great modern artist with a unique voice and charisma. Instead, Eastwood has taken the road of the likes of Joel Kinnamon and Jai Courtney, fifth-billed generic-looking handsome white dudes who can comfortably be inserted into an action movie when a bigger actor isn’t available (IE: Suicide Squad, Fate of the Furious, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Wrath of Man).
His newest film I Want You Back is a great exemplar of this. The film uses Eastwood as the quintessential boy-toy in its pair of love triangles which form the central thrust of the story. He’s just pretty enough that the audience can understand why all of the female leads want him but also uncomplicated enough that the film is able to use him as a himbo without making him come across as deplorable or cruel.
If I Want You Back could be summarized, it would be in the expression that “all is fair in love and war”. The story follows two love triangles wherein our lead characters are the ones who have to suffer the follow out of rejection. Peter (Charlie Day and Emma (Jenny Slate) find each other in a stairwell one day crying after they’re both dumped for more attractive potential mates. The two bond over their mutual grief and start scheming ways to help each other get together with their exes by mutually hanging out with them and trying to get to know them enough to get both original couples back together.
Peter hangs out with Noah (Eastwood) and discovers that he’s an affable if empty-headed frat boy who enjoys nutrition and has found new love with a beautiful baker woman. Meanwhile, Emma hangs out with Peter’s exe and tries to break them up with an awkward threesome.
It’s not a terribly scorching film as far as these sorts of dramas go. The big wacky scheme for trying to pair the couples back is very mundane and the emotional arc of the film is pretty obvious as these things go. They both want their old relationship back but they need to learn to move on and find new love. The truth gets revealed and things get awkward, just in time for true love to emerge.
I Want You Back is very much a potboiler midtier romantic drama, the likes of which have become very common in the age of Netflix and Hallmark. The added benefit of big Hollywood talent like Eastwood and Day is its biggest draw besides its coziness, although their presence also highlights that it’s not terribly ambitious.
The insights about love and relationships that it digs up are all fairly bog-standard anxieties about maturity, compatibility, and the desire to settle with the first attractive mate you find, while true love comes in the slow revelation and friendship a person can develop over time. At the midpoint of the film, Peter and Emma muse that he is the sort of guy that starts out offputting but warms up to you over time.
The film also carries a lot of sexual anxiety into the immediate subtext. One scene early on in the film involves Peter and Emma discussing their loneliness while her roommates are having violent graphic and loud sex in the next room over as if to punctuate their inner torment. There is also a very bizarre scene towards the end where Peter and Noah hang out with Pete Davidson and three women they met at a bar, only to discover that they’re all 17 years old and flee.
Like I said, I Want You Back is a perfect star vehicle for Scott Eastwood at this stage in his career. It typecasts him perfectly for the kind of actor he’s rapidly turning into. That’s not a condemnation of the film. I Want You Back is enjoyable if a bit bland, uncomfortable but generally inoffensive, much like Scott Eastwood. It’s the kind of movie that’s designed to be binged on Amazon Prime and it’s available for you to do that right now.