‘The New Romantic’ an introspective look at the sugar baby lifestyle
How does a soft, unsure journalism student fall into what some may argue is glorified prostitution? You can blame the heartless millennial dating scene. Blake Conway, played by Jessica Barden, is a disillusioned, hopeless romantic with a motive: to spice up her beloved sexless sex column on the college newspaper.
Carly Stone, in her debut as director and writer, demonstrates how the hookup culture that has defined the Tinder dating era can drive any romantic to venture into new fields. Then there is Morgan, Camila Mendes’ debut in film, the experienced sugar baby. Mendes provides an honest and effortless performance as she depicts the strong and confident demeanor necessary to live that kind of lifestyle.
Ian, played by Timm Sharp, made Blake feel like a lady and that was enough to become his ‘sugar baby.’ To Blake’s credit, her sex, love and relationships column was the motivation for initially approaching the relationship. However, the extravagant gifts and dreamy dates were much appreciated. “The grandest it gets these days is swiping left instead of right,” writes an unfazed Blake for her column.
“He called when he said he would and made concrete plans. It was chivalry at its finest,” says Blake as she reminiscences the benefits of her relationship with a well-off college professor.
But what did she expect? Was she falling in love? Was this supposed to end happily? The depth was never fully explained. The digression of the relationship seemed rushed and with no real climactic moment.
To an extent, the film is superficial in the sense that there is no deep analytical view into the psyche of the characters, particularly Ian or Blake. Yet, there is something quite refreshing about the perspective the story is being told from: an ordinary girl, with no extraordinary qualities or features.
The feel good moments are brought to us by Jacob, played by Brett Dier. His dorkish, youthful demeanor and quirky remarks make him incredibly easy to root for. This is a stand out performance for the young actor, who rose to fame in “Jane the Virgin.” Interestingly, although a little jealous, he supports Blake’s pursuit. He doesn’t judge her, but rather respects her decision. That’s admirable and probably only attainable in a romanticized movie plot.
The supporting cast shines a light onto many familiar faces. Matt, an editor, played by Avan Jogia from “Victorious,” portrays the political correctness necessary to be an ethical journalist but with enough of a cynical mindset to get a good story. Nikki, played by Hayley Law from “Riverdale,” has the mundane tone with just the right amount of sarcasm who’s easily recognizable as that one college roommate everybody knows. These characters seem like people you have encountered in your life before.
Overall, “The New Romantic” is a quirky take on relationships and self-acceptance in a modern setting. While poking fun at the romantic comedy genre, the film still manages to leave us with a warm, upbeat feeling in contrast to the easily cynical perspective that could have been taken.