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‘Alone Together’ Review: Katie Holmes’ Covid Rom-Com Fumbles

Tribeca: Holmes writes, directs, produces and stars in a pandemic YOLO love story at the start of the pandemic, opposite Jim Sturgess.

Don’t let this movie fool you: it’s not great, but it’s a warm reminder of the rom-com past.

“Alone Together,” despite being set in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, imbues the genre with the comfort of a matching late 2010s cashmere bralette and cardigan, according to the trend. writer-director-producer-star Katie Holmes made famous then.

It’s easy to get lost in the nostalgic parts of “Alone Together,” like the effortlessly quaint Anthropologie furniture and sleek cabinetry of a “woman on the go in the Big Apple.” It’s even easier to get lost in the simple but charming banter of Jim Sturgess and Holmes. But don’t get too dreamy for the rom-coms of days gone by: The film, which premiered at Tribeca 2022, is a shocking reminder that the world is a heartbreaking place, full of death, betrayal and traumatic loss. So goes our cute and quirky getaway.

“Alone Together” centers on June (Holmes), a restaurant critic who is suddenly out of a job and estranged from her boyfriend John (Derek Luke, with whom Holmes is set to work again on another film, “Rare Items”) starting March 15, 2020, when Manhattan comes to a standstill and COVID-19 drives a citywide exodus. June travels upstate to Hudson, NY to camp at an Airbnb that John has booked; John, however, chooses to stay in New York to care for his parents. Arriving at the rental, June is confronted by Charlie (Jim Sturgess), who has apparently double-booked the same French chateau-inspired cottage.

The opener to Holmes’ sophomore directorial effort “Alone Together” makes a stomach drag: A cover of “Blue Moon” plays as a Lifetime-like font rolls out the credits. (And yes, we judge movies by the police.) But seeing Holmes back onscreen on her own terms has a feeling of empowerment “you go, girl.” Of course, it could just be our projection that “Alone Together” quietly debuts the same summer as “Top Gun: Maverick” and the “M:I 7” trailer, but Holmes seems happiest to write, to direct and produce, while playing the role of the head. The whole “end of the world” backdrop is where “Alone Together” fumbles, and it really is fumbling.

June begins to cry when she sees a deer on the road to Hudson, and Charlie’s career is rooted in “fixing things”, like June’s hardened heart. Charlie is dedicated to getting June, an Indiana-born career woman, to take a break and return to her authentic self that drinks beer and eats Big Macs. Ugh, June’s boyfriend John was pressuring her to go vegan, and who really sticks to her food goals during a pandemic? !

Classic romantic-comedy little details like a large, amply-furnished house with just one bathroom and one bedroom make an already claustrophobic pandemic premise even closer: June and Charlie aren’t necessarily worried about getting COVID each other – although Charlie at one point adorably sews homemade masks for him and June – but the worry is rather that their “we can die tomorrow anyway” attitude will lead to a romance rooted in the two enjoying each other being in vulnerable states.

June first resorts to banging a bottle of white wine against a wall to uncork it (…OK…) and then, inevitably, hitting Charlie himself. We could get used to it. But no, here’s yet another voiceover from former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo talking about PPE when June’s really only focused on BDE. And then comes all death.

June’s grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease, dies in a nursing home (check out more Cuomo soundbites, maybe?), and she reveals to Charlie that her grandfather has her. raised after her parents died in a murder-suicide. Yes, this romantic comedy has a Murder-suicide reference. The last time a domestic violence murder-suicide was linked to so many dating was in Season 1 of “Temptation Island” (it’s on Peacock, watch it ASAP.) And while June opening up to Charlie could have been an emotional moment, less than 12 hours later, she’s back cycling with him through the forest and thinking about the romance of Instagram-friendly motels. Everything is magnified until it is no longer the case. Everything counts until nothing counts.

Charlie, meanwhile, befriends June following the loss of a parent. His father died years ago and his mother (Melissa Leo) raised him and his brother on her own. If there was a manic pixie dream man, Charlie would it. He dresses impeccably in GQ ensembles salvaged from a Brooklyn thrift store, pairing flannel sweaters with sherpa jackets adorned with obscure karate dojo logos. Zosia Mamet fills the voice of reason as the BFF according to her “Flight Attendant” and “Girls” arcs, and appears to support McDonald’s June dates with Charlie. From picnics in the front yard to karaoke at home and making love on a pink velvet sofa with monochrome floral prints, June and Charlie’s romance seems like the best thing to come out of the onset of the pandemic….

…until John crashes the Airbnb to collect his girlfriend and tell her that while she was falling in love with another man, her father died of COVID. You know, the father that June was annoyed about, John stayed in Manhattan. Well, I guess he was right. It’s only when June and John are together that we see the true Alone aspect; June cooks on her own, rides a bike on her own, and even watches movies on her own. John only intervenes to tell her that she should be grateful to be released from her “dead end job” and doubts her abilities to write a novel.

But John is not a villain: who is the villain? Should there be one? June wasn’t there for John in his grief, but then again, he wasn’t there for hers either. The film avoids guilt or emotional tolls; the rush of pandemic shutdowns is only used for YOLO connections seemingly blossoming into true love sponsored by countless bottles of white wine. June lets go of her embarrassed attitude about her makeup-free appearance and her biological clock when she’s with Charlie, and their awkward ease with each other feels real.

When Charlie warns that if June gets back together with John, she’ll “go out with you or get lost,” it sounds like Holmes is giving a PSA to the public. “Alone Together” has the momentum of a kind of recovery, but the plot tries to do too much, to say too much, when it really should only be about love. Who cares if it’s a formula or not? In the midst of this pandemic, maybe being something to rely on is a good thing.

Rating: C

“Alone Together” premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. Vertical Entertainment will release the film in theaters on Friday, July 22.

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