Saturday, February 18, 2017

Netflix's Other Valentine's Day Offering Is Girlfriend's Day

The Good: Decent performances, A couple of funny lines
The Bad: Unlikable characters, Oppressive mood, Ridiculous and simplistic plot, Short
The Basics: Girlfriend's Day is an underdeveloped mood piece that puts Bob Odenkirk in another miserable starring role.

For some of the big holidays lately, Netflix will release a special program or film that is themed to capitalize on that holiday. Netflix had a moderate success with A Very Murray Christmas as a variety Christmas show and they banked on the return of Sense8 with a special Christmas episode (reviewed here!) that was subsequently renamed, for example. For Valentine's Day 2017, Netflix promoted Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special, but that was not the only Netflix Original that was released for the holiday. Also for February 14, 2017, Netflix produced Girlfriend's Day.

Girlfriend's Day is barely a movie. Barely over an hour long, Girlfriend's Day is a Bob Odenkirk vehicle that is a celebration of Valentine's Day much the way Sense8's Season Two premiere was a celebration of Christmas . . . which is to day it is not. Instead, the Netflix dramedy takes a poke at the "greeting card holiday" by creating a film where there is an actual greeting card holiday created. The concept is not much more sophisticated than that . . . the protagonist is a greeting card writer who is down on his luck who seeks to write one great new greeting card for the new greeting card holiday.

Ray Wentworth is a greeting card writer at Allco, where he has written the leading romantic card for the past three Valentine's Day card. Despite that, he is called into his boss's office where he is fired. Wentworth heads to a bar, where he runs into Taft - the man who inspired him in the greeting card industry before he left to try writing a novel - and gets even more depressed. Returning home, he has a nightmare and hurts his hand. Three months later, the tendons in his hand have not healed and he is late on his rent. His landlord fobs off his nephew on him for the day and he runs into his old boss at a bar. Styvesan offers Ray off-the-books work in writing a romance card that uses the word "girlfriend."

After accepting the job, Wentworth finds he is suffering from serious writer's block. Wentworth quickly realizes he is being used when the Governor of California creates "Girlfriend's Day" and he could win the subsequent contest for Girlfriend's Day card for himself. While at the bar, he meets Jill, who works at a little card shop and hates some of the same things he does. Jill inspires Wentworth to start writing again, but he quickly finds that there is a conspiracy surrounding the Girlfriend's Day card contest . . . one which leaves his former mentor dead and a police detective extorting him. As Wentworth tries to get out from under the thumb of the police detective, he finds himself more and more drawn to Jill, who is giving him all the signs she wants a relationship with him.

Girlfriend's Day is barely a film on the merits, either. Bob Odenkirk plays Ray and his acting in the film is well within the limits of what we've seen from him before. In fact, throughout the opening of Girlfriend's Day, I felt like I was watching bonus features from Breaking Bad. Wentworth is a down-on-his-luck alcoholic, who lost his mother at a young age . . . shortly after he wrote her a card. Ray Wentworth is tormented by his three year-old divorce and his drinking. Unfortunately, Wentworth is not a terribly interesting character as he is characterized almost entirely by his misery.

Bob Odenkirk is fine as Ray Wentworth, but the role is not at all a challenge for him. Odenkirk plays another guy who gets punched in the face and is depressing to watch . . . what a stretch. The rest of the actors in Girlfriend's Day are fine, but most of the film seems like an excuse for Netflix to promote its other works by hiring performers from those works - Natasha Lyonne, June Diane Raphael and Lauren Lapkus stand out. Most of the performances are moody and direct deliveries of off-putting lines.

At its best moments, Girlfriend's Day is a funny satire of a noir film, but the movie is seldom at its best. Instead, it sustains a more oppressive than funny mood, so the quirky moments stand out in an awkward way. But it did not take long into Girlfriend's Day before I realized exactly why Netflix had not promoted this film the way they did their other Valentine's Day offering - it's just not that good.

For other Netflix exclusive films, please check out my reviews of:
Take The 10
True Memoirs Of An International Assassin
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
Special Correspondents
The Fundamentals Of Caring
The Ridiculous 6


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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