Review: 'Literally Right Before Aaron' Starring Justin Long And Cobie Smulders

Earlier this year, a dark comedy called Ingrid Goes West was quietly released to theaters.  It was fantastic. It starred Aubrey Plaza as the titular mentally ill young woman who goes off her meds and decides to “reinvent” herself. She travels across the country and begins obsessively stalking a model she saw on Instagram, going out of her way to get as close to her as possible. In the process, Ingrid ruins the lives of just about everyone she meets. It got great reviews and it’s one of my favorite movies of the year.  Unfortunately, this is not a review of Ingrid Goes West. This is instead a review of its bizarro-world evil twin: Literally Right Before Aaron.

Literally Right Before Aaron follows Ingrid almost exactly, but with a noticeable difference. This movie seems to think its protagonist’s behavior is cute and funny instead of clinically insane. America’s sweetheart Justin Long stars as Adam, a down-on-his-luck everyman still grieving over his breakup with Allison (Cobie Smulders) almost two years ago. Things take a turn when she calls him to invite him to her wedding to her new partner Aaron. He’s shocked. She moved on and he didn’t. In fact, it turns out he dated her “literally right before Aaron” as one character explains to him. Get it? Like the title! With the encouragement of his equally sociopathic dude-bro best friend (John Cho), Adam travels to San Francisco to attend the wedding, and hopefully win her back.

Again, the key flaw in this movie (aside from how unfunny the ‘jokes’ are) is that it clearly doesn’t see anything wrong with Adam’s aggressively wrong (and casually misogynistic) point of view. To a normal person, his plan is self-absorbed and disturbing, and so is he. However, in the mind of writer/director Ryan Eggold, these traits apparently make Adam the perfect fit to be the protagonist of a romantic comedy, and an uninspired one at that. While the details make it sound insane, the actual core plot is extremely generic. Boy tries to “win back” his lost love from her new seemingly-perfect-but-actually-secretly-a-jerk boyfriend. It’s a pretty paint by numbers setup, it’s just that Eggold’s ‘wacky’ new twist is to have the boy be a literal sociopath and his plan is to break-up an actually fully functioning couple at their wedding. Romantic Comedy!

It’s not just Justin Long who’s crazy, though. It’s genuinely all of the characters. Nobody in this movie talks or acts like real people, and when they try, they legitimately sound evil. The meet-cute flashback? It’s two people with no chemistry ruining each other’s day. The scene where we’re supposed to see how quirky and fun Cobie Smulders is? That features Smulders and Long playing a game where they hypothesize how they would ruin the lives of the various strangers around them, an already terrible idea of fun made worse by her answer: She’d break up a man’s marriage and give him AIDS. Literally a thing that she says. To be funny. To make us like her. AIDS.

That being said, Luis Guzmán’s character (who is only in one scene) is pretty likeable. So hats off to Mr. Guzmán. This movie would have been better if it was about you.

What frustrated me most though, was how much potential it had. The cast is comprised of very talented performers. Cobie Smulders is great, John Cho is great, and both Kristen Schaal and Charlyne Yi are hilarious comedians who are completely wasted in this movie. Even Justin Long can have his moments in the right role (this was not the right role). The visual direction is pretty impressive. Many of the montages and flashbacks all have an indie music video vibe that was pretty cool to watch. It’s just the parts where there are characters and dialogue that make the movie awful. Excellent ingredients for a bad recipe. There’s no amount of references to The Graduate that can save you from that.

In short, the main problem with Literally Right Before Aaron is that it is an insane movie made by and for crazy people.

1 out of 5