‘It Had to Be You’: Film Review

Cristin Milioti plays a 30-year-old woman who rejects her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in ‘It Had to Be You,’ Sasha Gordon’s romantic comedy.

The title of Sasha Gordon’s debut feature may be reminiscent of all too many formulaic romantic comedies, but the film offers a nice change of pace from the usual. Here, it’s the woman who’s afraid of commitment and runs for the hills when the topic of marriage comes up. The reversal may not be earth-shaking, but the plot element is refreshing enough to make It Had to Be You an enjoyable, light-hearted romp.

Of course, having Cristin Milioti in the central role is advantageous all by itself. This presence of the charmingly quirky and adorable performer (familiar from her roles in the Broadway musical Once and TV’s How I Met Your Mother) should be required in films of this type. Her looks are unusual enough to warrant her waiflike character’s response when told she looks like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday: “Maybe her lesbian cousin.”

The Bottom Line

Milioti shines in this clever, unconventional rom-com.

RELEASE DATE Oct 21, 2016

The story revolves around Sonia (Milioti), an advertising jingle composer in a long-term relationship that’s going swimmingly until her beau, the down-to-earth Chris (Dan Soder), proposes.  Although she loves him, the 30-year-old Sonia isn’t ready to take that step, and the two break up. That all of her friends are married and some of them are starting to have children makes Sonia feel even worse about her commitment-phobia. In the midst of all this, she keeps spotting a beautiful woman (Rachel York), about whom she spins elaborate scenarios. When Sonia sees the mystery woman reading the book Eat, Pray, Love, it inspires her to travel to Rome in emulation of the book’s heroine.

While in Rome—cue the travelogue of scenic locations, accompanied by Nino Rota-style music — Sonia has a fling with a sexy Italian. But things don’t turn out quite as well for her as it did for Julia Roberts in the movie, as she wakes up the next morning to discover that he’s robbed her.

For this tale inspired by writer/director Gordon’s (a veteran film soundtrack composer) personal experience, Milioti brings a wide-eyed charm to what could easily have been an irritating character. The filmmaker also infuses the frequently raunchy proceedings with a sexual frankness that is thankfully more often funny than tasteless, such as when Sonia’s Italian lover takes it upon himself to groom her nether regions.

The film doesn’t fully deviate from rom-com conventions. There’s the requisite happy ending, for instance, although again, one that’s delivered with a new twist. And there are times when the cutesiness becomes a bit forced, especially in the Italy-set scenes. Nevertheless, It Had to Be You ultimately demonstrates enough cleverness and inventiveness to make it more than a by-the-book entry in a genre that’s become more than a little stale.

Production: Vandewater Media
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Cast: Cristin Milioti, Dan Soder, Halley Feiffer, Mark Gessner, Kate Simses, Erica Sweany, Danny Deferari, Kyle Mooney, Rachel York, Nick Mennell
Director/screenwriter/composer: Sasha Gordon
Producers: Rachel Brenna, Richard Arlook, Benjamin Kruger, Levi Abrino, Sasha Gordon, Victor Magro
Executive producer: Chris Columbus
Director of photography: Bobby Webster
Production designer: Kendall Fleisher
Editor: Amanda Laws
Costume designer: Amanda Bujak
Casting: Avy Kaufman
Rated R, 80 minutes