I love a great romantic comedy. It doesn’t matter that most of the time these films are essentially the same. Great romantic comedies can take the conventions of the genre and present them with charm, smarts, heart, even a combination of all three. When they’re great, you just know it. I really wanted to say this about Remember Sunday.
Remember Sunday is the latest Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. It’s the story of Gus (Zachary Levi), who suffered a brain aneurysm three years prior losing his short term memory, and Molly, a waitress who dreams of opening a flower shop if she could only get her life in gear. Every morning Gus begins new, for him at least, relearning the terms of his life in New Orleans, his routines, and what happened to him. He meets Molly (Alexis Bledel), his waitress at the restaurant where Gus is supposed to be meeting a friend for breakfast. Molly is intrigued by Gus’ quirky habit of recording everything into a pen and leaves a recording of her own, beginning a sweet courtship
The premise by itself has tons of promise. What would it be like if you couldn’t remember the love of your life, but rather had to fall in love for the first time with them every day? When I read the synopsis, I thought this might be cheesy, but it could be a sweet, romantic, and lightweight story too. I held onto that hope until about 45 minutes into the film. It’s at this point in Remember Sunday when characters begin to behave in ways that are, well, out of character. While on a date, Gus, who until now has been forthcoming and open, decides not just to leave Molly in the dark about his condition, but to lie to her. Now, characters lie, people lie, but up to this point, the relationship building between Gus and Molly has no basis for this. when Gus finally decides he cannot avoid the truth, Molly cuts him off constantly, switching from the “you’re married, aren’t you?”girlfriend to “nothing could come between us” girlfriend to accusing Gus of some type of perversion and storming out disgusted. Something always interferes with the two main characters getting together, it’s a rom-com staple, but it feels more dramatically forced here than occurring organically.
One of the most inexplicable character shifts occurs with Molly’s roommate, Jolene (Valerie Azlynn). Jolene begins the film supporting Molly by loaning money to unboot Molly’s car and encouraging her to find a better man. At the first whiff of an issue, she goes Mr.Hyde, deleting voicemails and attacking Molly and Gus, before disappearing from the story without another mention.
My other gripe about Remember Sunday is sloppy plotting. Most of the story developments are put into motion by pure coincidence. A power outage wipes Gus’ recorder making him stand Molly up. Another technology failure is brought on by a leaky roof destroying Gus’ computer rig that keeps his life straight. A strange plotline involving a missing gemstone at the jewelry store where Gus works basically resolves itself, although Gus is fired and rehired by the end of the film. His lack of employment seems to have no effect at all on Gus’ life except that he can make a sandwich in the middle of the day.
The back half of the film just goes for broke story wise. Molly finds Gus’ research as an astrophysicist, his job pre-aneurysm, and the work turns out to be ground breaking. Molly gets a windfall of cash that allows here to be debt free and finally open her dream flower shop. Molly and Gus are off again and on again so many times it seems like each time they encounter a different character, their relationship status changes. I could go on. At this point Remember Sunday introduces and resolves plotlines seemingly out of nowhere.
Overall, Remember Sunday fails to connect with its audience on that heart level. It’s burdened with too many ideas going to many places at once. There’s a palpable lack of focus that destroys the goodwill and genuine sweetness set up in the first half. We watch Hallmark movies because they hit that comfort spot where we know what to expect and are hopeful that a surprise or two might come our way. Maybe the intent was to try and avoid the same old clichéd territory in romantic comedies? There are obvious comparisons to another romantic comedy with memory issues, 50 First Dates, but that movie succeeded despite its crude humor because 50 First Dates had heart. And that’s something Remember Sunday sorely needed.
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