Set It Up is a romantic comedy from two relative newcomers to the feature film scene, writer Katie Silberman and director Claire Scanlon. Silberman has focused on roles as co-producer up to now. Scanlon’s prior directing credits include episodes of television: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and G.L.O.W.
Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are two personal assistants facing a huge dilemma. Their respective bosses are narcissistic workaholics. This has left both assistants overworked with no free time on their hands. Their solution to this dilemma is to hook their bosses up with each other. Their hope is that romance will make their bosses more bearable to work for, while also providing these co-conspirators some well-deserved leisure time. As simple as the plan seems on the surface, Harper and Charlie find that their bosses aren’t going to make this an easy task.
While our two leads focus their romantic attention on their employers, sparks ignite between them. We first see their different ideologies and values in a late dinner negotiation. Harper is messy, free-spirited, and willing to compromise while Charlie is clean-cut, traditional, and a winner-take-all type. The only reason they become friendly is their joint mission, but we see a genuine bond grow from their initial antagonism. They also exhibit a refreshing lack of jealousy over their respective romantic partners. One can’t help but think they’re adorable together, and pine for the moment when they realize they’re meant to be a couple.
This desire comes from the genuine chemistry between Deutch and Powell. Powell is charming and looks like the living embodiment of a Ken doll. Deutch is adorable in her own right, even when she’s bordering on tears. They’re perfect for each other, and each character grows as their friendship blossoms.
Usually, in a movie like this, the background roles aren’t noteworthy, but Set It Up had quite a few standouts. Jeff Hiller is the salty Mexican Restaurant Waiter, and he’s fantastic with his handful of lines. From the moment he enters the scene, it’s easy to see that he’s dealt with Harper before. He knows she’s going to try to weasel her way out of ordering any actual food. Every interaction with her amps up an annoyance that Harper patently ignores.
Another stand-out is Ring Salesman Sonia Denis. Her best lines come towards the end of her scene, when she repeats back some of the drama that unfolded, and then hushes herself up before she says too much. The best background performance is Tituss Burgess as Creepy Tim, one of the maintenance workers in their office building. Burgess’ character earns the creepy moniker by misreading situations and talking endlessly about taking care of cacti.
Set It Up was an unpredictable romantic comedy that disrupted a lot of tropes. We have Lucy Liu as Kirsten, who is the head of an online publication called The Lineup. One would expect that a female-run publication in a romantic comedy would be a fashion magazine, but it’s a sports site. Speaking of sports, Harper is the sports fan instead of Charlie, who showed up to a Yankees game in a suit. This movie also has the gay best friend, but he’s a part of Charlie’s life, not Harper’s. There are no make-over montages to be had with him either. His character dazzles with sound advice and comedic jabs instead. Set It Up is a fun and refreshing entry into a genre that is usually paint-by-numbers.
If you’re looking for something light, fun, and even a bit meta, Set It Up is a perfect pick.
Set It Up is currently streaming on Netflix.