There’s something fundamentally promising about The Layover; it constantly gives off the impression of a film that should really work. The story is simple, the cast is mostly likeable, the premise invites a wealth of humour to take us through its brief 80-minute runtime. And yet, the film rarely feels confident in itself to achieve any of this – it almost always feels as if its best intention is to just scrape by, never pushing itself to hit the heights I would argue it could hit.
Kate (Alexandra Daddario) is a school teacher, Meg (Kate Upton) is a business woman. The two are best friends. After they both have a bad day at work, they decide to embark on a spontaneous trip to somewhere hot and tropical, only for their plane to be rerouted due to hurricane warnings. On the plane they end up seated next to a guy called Ryan (Matt Barr), whom they both find themselves attracted to, and when they discover that he’s staying in the same hotel as them they begin competing to win his affections.
Characters and Clichés
Okay, I’ll admit it: it’s about as clichéd as they come. But clichés can also be reliable, we can find comfort in them and still enjoy what they give us. The Layover was never going to be a comedy classic, but it has all the ingredients to make for a fun, funny 80 minutes. It never quite gets there, though, sometimes even coming across as a film still in its second editing draft: there are random, awkwardly placed fades through black between scenes, occasional mismatched colour grading from shot to shot.
Even with these technical mishaps, The Layover should still be putting out good humour and fun performances – but it struggles here too. Clichés can be fun in moderation, but when both of your protagonists are formed around them, it;s harder to really buy into what you’re watching. Meg is a woefully annoying character, never fully embracing the rest of the film’s more lighthearted, carefree attitude. Upton‘s performance here doesn’t help matters either – she overacts a great number of scenes, frequently coming across as grating rather than lively.
Daddario is given more emotional material to play with, and she relishes in it. She’s a much subtler performer than Upton, able to draw a laugh with a pitch perfect facial expression or a quick adjustment of her swimsuit, but equally nailing some of the film’s more extreme comedic set pieces. I feel like it’s counterproductive to pit the two against each other here, but it’s tough when Daddario is clearly operating on a higher level than Upton.
Meg Vs. Kate
That said, though, it’s not as if the film’s script gives Upton much to work with. Meg is a shallow individual, a person that you’d never want to spend even a second of your life with. The film obviously tries to make her more likeable come the final act – it also shoehorns in a secondary romance subplot for her, probably for the same reason – but it hasn’t laid the groundwork to do so. Kate is hardly a revolutionary character, but she’s more in keeping with the film’s tone and sense of humour, and the script at least gives her a small thematic thread that begins in scene one and returns at the end.
The Layover is never a riotously funny film, but it’s sprinkled with enough decent one-liners and chuckle-inducing sight gags to just scrape by. While watching The Layover, though, I came to the realisation that I could rarely pinpoint a moment where the film was trying to be funny and failing. It’s not as if jokes are bombing left, right and centre – this is never an uncomfortable film to watch for that reason – it just doesn’t fully commit to being a comedy.
This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the film instead committed to being more of a romance feature, or a film about friendship, or even a road trip story. The problem is that it doesn’t really commit to anything, jumping from segment to segment without so much as a running joke to bring it all together. It forces The Layover into a frustrating place, and one made even more jarring by the film’s refusal to actually advance its plot. This begins as a respectably simple premise, but by the sixtieth minute you’re longing for a new dimension to what you’re watching.
The film eventually reaches its climax, and lands on an almost plot twist that I have to admit to not seeing coming. The Layover tries to turn this twist into a discussion point, though, suddenly becoming a film semi-devoted to tackling sexism. Yet it completely fails, as a victory for our protagonists essentially comes at the expense of another woman – rather than feeling triumphant it feels hollow, almost nasty.
The Layover: Conclusion
That said, somehow The Layover eventually serves up an epilogue of sorts, and it’s far and away the film’s strongest sequence. It returns Kate’s character to where she first began, but with a new outlook on what she’s doing. There’s even a surprisingly thoughtful moment between Meg and Kate right at the very end, something I’d never have expected the film to be able to achieve. It doesn’t quite save the film from the rest of itself, but it’s a nice resolution to an otherwise lacklustre comedy.
What do you think? Did The Layover‘s humour work for you? Let us know in the comments!
The Layover gets theatrical release on September 1.
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