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‘Maybe I Do’ Review: All-Star Rom-Com Makes You Wish They Hadn’t

The offspring of two failed marriages consider tying the knot, but among all six characters there’s not a single recognizable human being

Two married couples, both in the upper echelons of middle-aged. Each couple is bored and disinterested in their own way: he’s too nice, she’s too uptight; he’s too caddish, she’s too wanton. In their desperation, these spouses drift into affairs — sexual, emotional, somewhere in between — all of which are allowed to go under the radar until, that is, their kids decide they maybe, kind of, sort of, just might want to marry each other. Then it all blows up in their faces.

This is the ham-fisted, forced premise of Michael Jacobs’ “Maybe I Do” which, despite its A-list cast, can’t escape its shoddy writing and worse filmmaking. The two married couples in question are Sam (William H. Macy) and Monica (Susan Sarandon), the former’s overt, ho-hum sweetness bucking up against the sensual desire of his wayward wife.

Monica takes up with Howard (Richard Gere), who can’t even commit to his own infidelity any more than he can to his uptight wife, Grace (Diane Keaton), who meets Sam crying alone at the movies one night. Sam and Monica are parents to the skeptical Allen (Luke Bracey) whose quirky girlfriend Michelle (Emma Roberts) — Howard and Grace’s daughter — is dying for him to pop the question.

Though the premise of Jacobs’ film might be interesting to audiences who enjoyed “Book Club” and the past few years’ Nancy Meyers knockoffs, the observations about fidelity, intimacy, and love are only skin-deep. How can any of these parents — failing, by the film’s standards, at their own marriages — be considered qualified to give marriage advice?

Every young couple is eager to get married, unaware of the years that follow that kind of commitment. The older couples’ sparks have faded, perhaps because none of these people were characters to begin with. Macy, Sarandon, Keaton and Gere are operating with one adjective apiece and hitting that adjective until we’re exhausted by them. No wonder these people don’t love each other; there was nothing to love about them in the first place.

Roberts and Bracey (who previously teamed in Netflix’s “Holidate”) aren’t served any better by the film’s sweeping statements on marriage. The inciting incident between them, in which Allen dives for the bouquet at a friend’s wedding so Michelle won’t get it, is a misplaced and unclear act of whimsy, followed by a vague fight. Roberts is perhaps meant to be playing “quirky,” hysterically asking Allen if he won’t marry her because she’s not a ballerina. Like their parents, it’s hard to know what this couple enjoys about each other’s company and why the products of such lackluster marriages would seek to correct the narrative.

Often it’s easy to identify a film’s origins in the theater by the nuance and cadence of a script, but Jacobs’ film gives away his stage roots in its dull cinematography and lazy staging. There is simply no need for “Maybe I Do” to be a film; it certainly isn’t shot like one. The scenes drag on in singular, sparse locations without a single touch of anything specific. The conversations are long-winded but inconclusive. It’s one thing to listen to intelligent characters debate and discuss the necessity of love and marriage; it’s quite another to endure thoughts from those who are hardly capable of thinking.

It doesn’t help that all the couples are imbued with ugly, gendered tropes. Roberts, Keaton and Sarandon are all playing familiar, unoriginal tropes of women in relationships: Roberts is hysterical and manic, Keaton is prudish and conservative (and laughably “Christian”), and Sarandon is going full sexpot (at least she’s having fun). The men, on the other hand, are forced to be the voice of reason — Gere is slimy and noncommittal, Macy is noble, Bracey is indecisive and logical. It’d be one thing if “Maybe I Do” was willing to play with these tropes, but mostly it’s eager to hit familiar beats and then belabor them for minutes on end.

By the time the three couples in question wind up in the same house, it ought to give way to chaos and zaniness. Alas, every character is obsessed with having the same conversation with another character in the film, until all six of them have had one-on-one conversations with each other before coming to a predictable, happy close. Sarandon’s Monica gets to revel in the mania, but the movie can’t decide if she’s a bored housewife or a borderline malevolent presence until she sits down with Keaton’s Grace only to realize that — gasp — they actually have more in common than they realize.

Jacobs may believe he’s cracked something open about the way people relate to each other, that regardless of who we love we are bound to indulge bouts of boredom, but “Maybe I Do” is far less interested in humanity than it is a pastiche of humanity, observed and unloving.

“Maybe I Do” opens in US theaters Jan. 27 via Vertical Entertainment.