There’s nothing like New York City during Christmas: the packed streets of Soho and Midtown, the tourist-dense holiday market in Bryant Park, the unexpected bursts of snow.
There’s magic in the air, no doubt, but chaos too, as is evident in “Something From Tiffany’s,” a new streaming Christmas romantic comedy, a genre already rich in entries. A mix-up between two boyfriends at the iconic jewelry store Tiffany leads to a mix-up for the ages: one woman’s engagement ring winds up on the wrong hand.
At the helm of “Something From Tiffany’s” is ingenue du jour Zoey Deutch (“Not Okay”) as Rachel, a strong-willed, career-oriented (and Jewish, inexplicably) baker who tolerates her longtime tattoo artist boyfriend Gary (Ray Nicholson, “Licorice Pizza”). He’s often disappointing her — showing up late or missing an obligation — forcing him to make up for his own incompetence with gifts and gestures of affection.
He heads to Tiffany’s for an affordable gift, and an unexpected mix-up and minor car accident results in a little-blue-bag swap between Gary and Ethan (Kendrick Sampson, “Insecure”), an author and creative-writing professor eager to propose to his girlfriend Vanessa (Shay Mitchell, “Pretty Little Liars”). When Ethan winds up with a box of earrings and Gary winds up with an engagement ring out of his price range, both couples find themselves in a less-than-ideal situation.
Rachel and Ethan are easy to root for; “Something From Tiffany’s” doesn’t give us the option not to. They’re both hard workers, ethically minded, and outrageously sentimental. These are carbon copies of characters we’ve seen in romcoms: Rachel is the portrait of a striving small business owner, Ethan the widower tasked with a young daughter (Leah Jeffries, “Beast”). That the two of them, who bump into each other at the hospital after Gary’s accident, hit it off is hardly a surprise. They’re not different enough to prove a dynamism. They merely parrot their own thoughts back at each other, unlike their partners waiting back home.
“Something From Tiffany’s” easily has a leg up on its other Christmas romcom peers: for one, it’s relatively beautiful to look at, clearly shot in New York City during its cold-weather months and full of the city’s numerous landmarks. It’s devoid of any of the corny insanity of Hallmark films, opting for a tone intended to feel much more genuine. That Rachel and Ethan’s romance blossoms while they are in committed relationships with other people almost lends the film an edge, though it’s never quite willing to confront why these two are so quick to jump.
Gary is not a great guy, though Rachel’s tolerance is much more generous than any sane woman in her position. That she’s put off by one of his boorish cousins towards the end of the film almost stuns: has she never met any of his friends before? On the other hand, Ethan’s longtime girlfriend Vanessa is a tougher nut to crack. Neither egregiously awful nor clearly an incorrect fit, it’s hard not to feel as though the film does her dirty, villainizing a woman whose greatest sin is wanting to live in Los Angeles. (Fair enough.)
Tiffany, as well as the novel by Melissa Hill that inspired Tamara Chestna’s script, serve as the jumping off point for the film, but “Something From Tiffany’s” rarely if ever engages with its title subject. The jewelry mix-up that propels the plot of the film ought to lead to conversations about social class and expectations: Rachel and Gary do not share the financial stability of Ethan and Vanessa, though the former’s gigantic apartment might dictate otherwise. No one is ever willing to have a genuine conversation in the film, undoing all the effort put into its production design.
A romantic comedy, however, has never been fueled by logic as much as by charm, spark, or surprise, which prompts the question: Do these two feel like they belong together against all odds? Despite the pushy urging from Ethan’s precocious daughter Daisy and Rachel’s straightforward business partner Terri (Jojo T. GIbbs, “Fresh”), the unfortunate answer is “not really.” Both are clearly unhappy in their own relationships, but their desire for each other is asexual and unserious. Though Deutch is almost always charming and Sampson is an equally amiable presence, these two do not embody characters with capacity for great change. They do not capitulate or adjust; they merely slip into each other’s lives and grab hold.
It’s difficult to judge the merit of a film like “Something From Tiffany’s” which exists at the intersection of “one in a million” and “not as bad as the rest.” For the Christmas romcom devotee, it will provide a breath of fresh air in its competency of craft, though for those looking to dip a toe into the genre, “Something From Tiffany’s” is almost too grounded and complacent in its lack of drama.
Despite the rainy, grim New York Decembers of late, the real object of desire on display in “Something From Tiffany’s” isn’t a precious stone but the city itself. That two young romantics can meet and fall in love because a car accident leads to a retail mix-up sounds relatively run-of-the-mill in terms of New York City urban legend. If only it happened to anyone but these two.
“Something From Tiffany’s” launches globally on Prime Video Dec. 9.