When a film relies so heavily on tropes from other iconic comedies it becomes actually quite difficult to not begin mentally comparing it to many predecessors of its kind (the list is rather extensive). Such is the case with Literally Right Before Aaron. Written and directed by Ryan Eggold, it is a comedy that does its best to re-create, re-generate and re-define the “my-ex-has-moved-on” plot that in mainstream film, is all too familiar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite deliver the expected bitter-sweet journey, but rather comes crashing down into a movie surrounding a narcissist miserably skulking around San Francisco mourning an end to a relationship his ex hopes would be a quaint friendship.
Justin Long (“Drag Me to Hell”), as that narcissist, once again ventures into his familiar territory of the goofy, down-on-his-luck 30-something guy in playing Adam, a documentary film editor desperately clinging on to happier memories of his ex-girlfriend, Allison (Cobie Smulders, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”). Yet although he’s nailed the genre and the character of the besotted lover — “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “A Case of You” and “Going the Distance” as examples — the role of Adam, to be frank, could also appeal to the likes of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Jim Carrey. I make that distinction because Literally Right Before Aaron recycles the significance of memory pathos that films like “500 Days of Summer” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” executed brilliantly through subjective memory experiences flashed in front of the audience. Here, however, there isn’t nearly as much satisfaction from Adam’s memories being projected, their home-video quality doesn’t match the overall tone of the film and is hastily assembled with the most clichéd old-school slow jazz scoring it.
As the film navigates through Adam’s memories with Allison, inter-cut with various frames of our would-be protagonist reveling in his misery, there is a lacking of that indescribable chemistry two lovers should have, in a movie anyways. From the minimal context we are given about their relationship, it’s difficult to be invested or even care about Allison and Adam’s reunion at her wedding to the perfect-in-every-which-way Aaron (Ryan Hansen, “Bad Santa 2”).
And behold — a wedding! Another archetype in romantic-comedies that is used as the sure fire method to gather all the film’s characters (and their emotional baggage) into a hall, also clearly the perfect scenario for Adam to show his narcissism right in front of his ex who has clearly moved on. Again, Eggold is content to borrow from setups we’ve seen before in classics as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “The Graduate.” The wedding in Literally Right Before Aaron is actually so over-run with used scenarios, that if removed, it would be difficult to find anything original at all taking place at Allison and Aaron’s nuptials.
A round of applause, however, is in order for Kristen Schaal (“The Boss”) who exudes the quirky shtick she has built her career on, bringing absurdity to a whole new creepy level playing the socially inept and remarkably awkward, Talula, Adam’s date to the wedding. Her interaction with the withholding Adam gives the film much of the needed comic moments and a few laughs that it so desperately needs.
So what this movie finally presents is a amalgamation of those memorable scenes from everyone’s favorite comedies, although its execution makes for a far less memorable impact. Falling short of the warranted charm and charisma of those classics as well as other well-received Justin Long-esque films, Literally Right Before Aaron is a light-hearted, but forgettable, take on the most iconic movies that tackle the inextricable connection of memory and relationships.