A Case of You is a romantic comedy for the 21st century. When Sam (Justin Long) tries to woo the aloof girl at the coffee shop, Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood), he stalks her Facebook profile to transform himself into the man of her dreams. Such is the exact setup you would expect from a rom com, and A Case of You does not fail to meet the rote expectations of its genre.
Sam is a not-unsuccessful writer, earning his living penning the novelizations for popular movies (you know, the ones that aren’t already adapted from a novel—as if they exist). But Sam is now struggling to write his own original novel, and he thinks that Birdie could be his much-needed muse. So, after an awkward chat when he gets a coffee refill from her, Sam stalks her Facebook profile to create some common ground between them. He takes guitar lessons, studies in a cooking class, and even takes up Judo (after misappropriating her love of Judo for the martial arts, not realizing she is referring to her parents’ dog of the same name).
But even after a few weeks of “training,” he is still too nervous to meet her. Instead, Sam arranges a meet-cute at an improv show she is attending in order to display all their shared interests. It works, and Birdie and Sam take up a one-sided relationship where she says she likes things and Sam blindly feigns a love for each of those things as well. While it’s not the best foundation to build a relationship on, Birdie does indeed become his muse and Sam begins writing his novel—a thinly veiled account of his relationship with her (maybe we’re actually watching the filmic adaptation of his novel?).
The only thing more shocking than Sam giving up every iota of himself is how eagerly Birdie seems to enjoy it. She never questions why her boyfriend doesn’t have any interests of his own. Although the film does address this, it comes too late to fully redeem her character. She’s still a better character than Sam, however. He puts so little faith in being himself that you want to set him in front of the TV and make him watch Glee until he learns how to accept himself as an individual. In fact, he gets so weighed down by his insecurities that he cruelly projects them onto Birdie. As everything begins to blow up in his face, Sam must face the inevitable rom com choice between being forever alone or confessing everything to his one true love.
The film’s story (co-written by Christian Long, Justin Long, and Keir O’Donnell) has a few high points; but director Kat Coiro tries to really ground the film in the performances (specifically its profusion of cameos). Long succeeds as the protagonist, always likable enough for you to keep rooting for him to wake up and realize what an idiot he is. Wood is charming enough as Birdie to be a believable muse—despite her short, blonde hair that too closely resembles Meg Ryan. Together they have decent chemistry, but you never really feel that spark that Sam supposedly has for Birdie. Keir O’Donnell is tame as Sam’s pothead roommate Eliot (although I could’ve done without all the jokes about his bizarre masturbation habits). Also pleasantly tame is Busy Philipps as Eliot’s girlfriend. Her sage advice helps undo a lot of the damage caused by Eliot’s misguided (or misconstrued) counsel.
Beyond that, the film gets bogged down with recurring cameos. Peter Dinklage ruffles feathers as a fey barista, stealing glances at Sam whilst delivering biting repartee. Sam Rockwell runs amok as Sam’s guitar instructor, adding nothing tangible to the film (not even a laugh). Vince Vaughn makes the most of his screen time, but he’s fortunately reined in from rambling too much, allowing some of his jokes to hit their mark. And even Sienna Miller pops up as Sam’s ex, presumably to spark his need to have a girlfriend.
Kat Coiro was drawn to the film by exploration of dating in this social media-dominated culture. She uses it not only as a warning about how anything you post online will be available for potential partners to see but she also is saying something about how the magic of those first dates is skewered thanks to these social media sites. Whether or not it comes off as a warning or a condemnation, A Case of You lacks enough humor and interest to resonate with the audience in order to drive a point home.