Last week saw a pleasant announcement for those who thought they’d have to wait until The Avengers: Age of Ultron for a new Joss Whedon film: Right after its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was announced that the Whedon-written In Your Eyes would be available to rent online.
Which I did, because co-star Zoe Kazan described it as “almost like Joss Whedon does Nicholas Sparks,” and hell, that makes me curious. Should you rent it too? My answer is a resounding “it depends.”
The basic premise of In Your Eyes is that Rebecca (Kazan) and Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) are your typical “from opposite sides of the tracks” couple–he’s a poor ex-con with a heart of gold, she’s the timid wife of an emotionally abusive doctor (Mark Feuerstein). They’re brought together by a bit of supernatural tomfoolery: Since they were kids they’ve been able to see through each other’s eyes and sometimes even feel what the other is feeling, though it takes them until after the movie starts for them to figure out what’s going on.
As meet cutes go, it’s an original one, and Kazan and Stahl-David are both charismatic enough to carry a movie where their characters aren’t physically in a room together 95% of the time. (I considered marking it a spoiler that they do eventually meet, but c’mon, you know they do.) Props for that also goes to director Brin Hill, who takes scenes that on paper are basically two characters alone, talking to themselves, and keeps them interesting.
There’s not a lot about In Your Eyes, aside from the basic premise, that’s outside the box. There are secondary characters straight out of Romantic Dramas 101: The socialite “friend” who likes to spread gossip (Jennifer Grey), the sympathetic parole officer (Steve Harris), the controlling husband, the scumbag best friends (Steve Howey, David Gallagher), the secondary love interest (Nikki Reed) who’s there to let our pretty young leads know they’re the ones destined to be together. The characters you think will turn out bad turn out bad. The characters you think will turn out sympathetic turn out sympathetic. Every beat you’d expect to see in a romantic drama is there about when you expect it to be, though sometimes it takes a different form than it would in a Nicholas Sparks novel. (For example, Rebecca’s ultimate confrontation with her husband.)
All this isn’t to say that In Your Eyes is bad. It’s a small, sweet movie. Whedon’s stamp is definitely there, and not just in the banter he’s written for the characters (oh, is there banter). But it’s no genre subversion masterpiece like The Cabin in the Woods, which Whedon co-wrote. It’s definitely a soppy romantic drama, and if those aren’t your thing then all the banter in the world probably won’t make In Your Eyes one of your favorite films of 2014.
But hey. Romantic drama isn’t my thing, and while I didn’t love In Your Eyes, I can’t say I regret spending a little bit more than the cost of my morning caramel latte to rent it. You can do the same on InYourEyesMovie.com, and then go back to bathing in your inner cynicism afterwards.
Want a little more to go on? We posted the first three minutes of the film, and here’s the trailer: