I am immensely confused and distracted by the title Resort to Love. You don’t usually think of people having to resort to love. Resort to violence? Sure. Force? Absolutely. But love? Nope. Because that’s a positive thing and language has rules and guidelines and that’s how we all make sense of stuff. Frankly, I think the folks at Netflix were trying to capitalize on Christina Milian’s prior success with Falling Inn Love, but they couldn’t come up with a cute way to connect the words resort and love in a sensical kind of way. Title aside, this is a fairly charming, misogyny-free rom-com that boasts at least one Genetically Blessed Face ™. (I’m only here to quietly judge who you find attractive) and several complimentary six-pack scenes (the abdominal kind, not the beverage kind), although it would have benefited from a heavier hand in the editing booth and one less running gecko gag.
Erica (Christina Milian) just knows she’s on the verge of finally making it as a singer, which is something she’s been working toward her entire life, and maybe even sacrificed her relationship with her fiancé for. She collaborated on the superstar Cre’s (Kayne Lee Harrison) latest album, and she is nervous and excited to hear the final product at the listening party. But wouldn’t you know it, just as she and her best friend Amber (Tymberlee Hill) are about to walk out the door, she pulls at a loose thread on her shirt and the whole thing rips. Mind you, she says out loud something like, “Oh, is that a snag?” just before pulling at the thread, because heaven forbid we intuit anything for ourselves in this movie.
Anyway, she doesn’t have anything else to wear because she put everything in storage when she came to stay with Amber after her Big Breakup ™ when her fiancé moved to Charleston for a new job and she stayed in New York for her career. Well, everything except her wedding dress that she obviously kept so we’d know she wasn’t Over It ™ yet. So snip snap, just like the mice in Cinderella, Amber retools the wedding dress into a party appropriate top, thus literally cutting off Erica’s attachment to the past. Oooh, I do love some in-your-face obvious symbolism. Mix all your brain cells tiny martinis and tell them to kick back and relax because none of them are going to need to work while watching this movie. No one asked me—and why would they ask a woman who has nighttime and daytime pajamas—but even ripped, the first shirt totally worked.
Off they go to the listening party where Cre throws a total tantrum because someone leaked one of his tracks, so he refuses to release the album at all. Her hopes of career and marriage both dashed, Erica goes back to Amber’s to wallow in sweatpants, self-pity, and red wine. Eventually, Amber, who is growing concerned that Erica is going to “fuse to the couch,” swings her a singing gig at a resort on Mauritius. (There’s a lot of dramatic crying between here and there, but I’ll spare you a reenactment of it all.) At first Erica is absolutely opposed to the idea, but she doesn’t have many options, so off she goes to get away from it all and have some real space from the memories of her ex-fiancé. So you know what’s going to happen, right?!? You do, but holy timewarp is it going to take forever to get there.
Erica gets to the resort where she’s met by Barrington (T.J. Power), a goofy Australian guy who plays guitar in the hotel band, Claire (Sylvaine Strike), the uptight manager, and an unnamed gecko, who makes Erica scream a lot. I’d just like to say that we need to lose the trope of some utterly benign animal scaring the wits out of the heroine in rom-coms. It’s especially prevalent in location-dependent rom-coms that rely at least somewhat on exotification as a plot device, which is even more problematic because it adds to the othering of incredibly innocuous things. I could also do without the scream that Christina Milian uses across all movies and all species for such encounters. See also: Gilbert the Goat in Falling Inn Love.
Side note: It’s unfortunate that Amber doesn’t go with her to the resort because she adds a lot of pep and levity to the first ten minutes of the movie that I felt was lacking from much of the remaining hour and 30 minutes.
It turns out, and this will be the first shocker of the movie, that a lot of people like to get married at the fancy resort and want to book the hotel band for the reception. What? Destination weddings are a thing and they make use of hotel bands? Why, I never dreamed of such a thing! Erica likes this less than the gecko. Much to the dismay of an entire wedding party, the rest of the band, and my delicate earholes, Erica sobs and wails her way through a rendition of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” I’m not sure if it’s really clear yet, but she still has some issues to work through with the whole broken engagement. Is that clear? It might not be, in which case, don’t worry because the movie will spell it out for you several more ways. Then we watch Erica find her resort legs via a montage of her performing “I Will Survive” interspersed with shots of her exploring the island. A super subtle song choice there.
At this point we are 20 minutes into the movie, which is probably more time than needed to be allotted to backstory and set up for a pretty simplistic plot. I do appreciate that Erica is portrayed sympathetically. Friends, she doesn’t even show up on the island in inappropriate footwear! How forward thinking! Is this what women’s equality looks like? I’m joking, but also this movie was written by two women (Tabi McCartney and Dana Schmalenberg) and the lack of sexism and misogyny is refreshing, like an ocean breeze. But 20 minutes? Still too long of a lead-in.
After her montage, Erica is lying on the beach relaxing (you know she’s relaxing because she lets out a big, contented, audible sigh) when she hears someone in the water calling for help. Even though she doesn’t have any kind of training, she swims out to try to save him. It seems they’re both going to drown until you remember that absolutely no one is going to get more than mildly scraped in this kind of movie. And then, as if he is risen from the sea himself, our Genetically Blessed Face ™ finally shows up on the scene, carrying both Erica and the drowning man out of the ocean like he’s Poseidon or some shit. And then, because no one likes wearing icky sticky wet clothing, he takes his shirt off and introduces himself as Caleb (Sinqua Walls). I can’t be sure that Christina Milian’s reaction to seeing him shirtless was acting or not, because I’m pretty sure my face was doing the same thing. Obviously, there is instant chemistry, but she shuts it down and says maybe they’ll see each other around the island and walks off, which makes absolutely no sense except that it adds “tension” to the movie.
And boy do they ever see each other around! Back at the resort we finally get to the meat of the matter. Caleb is Erica’s ex-fiancé Jason’s (Jay Pharoah) somewhat estranged older brother. Oh, you read that right. Caleb, part-time God of the sea, is the brother of Erica’s ex-fiancé who she got a job halfway around the damn world to try and get over! Caleb was in the military and wasn’t really in touch with Jason, so this explains why he and Erica never met before, but it does not explain why she’s never seen a single damn picture of him in the age of social media and digital cameras. Which, holy hell have you seen his face? I’m pretty sure she would remember that face if she saw a picture of it, and she would have in four and half years of dating his brother because we live in the age of carrying around computers in our hands and their overbearing mother would have shoved pictures of her military son into everyone’s face. My god, doesn’t anyone think that part through? I’m sorry, I got a little off course there. Caleb is at the resort to attend Jason’s wedding to his new fiancée Beverly (Christiani Pitts), and guess who is going to be expected to sing at the nuptials? Yes! You guessed right! It’s Erica! Thirty minutes into the movie we finally reach some conflict! Jason begs Erica not to tell Beverly that they were engaged, which she agrees to because how much are they really going to see each other? Oh, just all the damn time because of course Beverly decides that Erica is her new best friend.
And from there you can guess more or less what’s going to play out over the remaining hour and ten minutes of the movie. Except with a couple of sneak attack gecko moments thrown in for “humor.” At one point there is a six-inch long gecko on someone’s shirt and the person doesn’t notice. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s a diurnal noiseless gecko that they have barking it up during a night scene, but my research could be wrong. Geckos are well outside my area of expertise, though between this movie and Operation Christmas Drop I feel I should start studying them more closely just so I can tell when a Netflix rom-com is trying to bamboozle me. I’m going to leave it up to you as to how much you’re willing to suspend your gecko-related disbelief.
Generally speaking, I find Christina Milian’s acting to skew a little too Hallmark Hammy for my taste. She’s going to squeeze in all the outsized facial expressions possible and emote the hell out of every single emotion. There’s nowhere to rest when you watch her act. It’s all work, and I find it exhausting to watch. But I also know she’s well-loved by many people, and I’m not here to dump on her. Truth be told, this is the kind of movie that believes that, if possible, you should always make something auditory instead of just visual. Why show that someone is thirsty by, say, having them drink a lot when you can have them drink a lot, make over-the-top gulping sounds, AND also declare themselves parched like they’ve suddenly been possessed by the ghost of a Victorian woman? It’s a style I don’t love, but I know for many people it’s their comfort watch. Anyway, I am willing to cut the whole shebang some slack because, as I said before, it is so light on sexism. Women aren’t pitted against each other or made out to be crazy. Even when Jason and Caleb’s somewhat overbearing mother shows up, she’s given the grace of her troublesome actions coming from a place of love. And then there are the men, who are afforded some space to be vulnerable, which rarely happens in movies like these. These characters, who are, of course, fairly one-dimensional and thinly drawn, are all surprisingly sympathetic. When they end up hurting each other it’s not out of spite or malice or even selfishness, but from bumbling and stumbling as they try to find their own way forward.
I keep trying to come up with a better name for the movie than Resort to Love. I came up with Love’s Last Resort, but there’s a movie with that name from 2017. Or there’s Island of Love, but that’s probably too close to Love Island and this is a very different beast than that. Resort of Love? Check-in to Love? Well, I’ll let you know if I come up with anything worth mentioning. And, if you’re in need of a decent rom-com, don’t let the atrocious and confusing title (or the gecko gimmick) scare you off.