People in romantic comedies – from an objective standpoint – tend to behave like psychopaths. The way they doggedly pursue mates, make big public gestures, and find themselves in embarrassing social situations (i.e. “How did you get naked at this funeral??”) would have them instantly committed in anything approaching reality. We usually forgive this psychopathic behavior because, well, I think we’re all romantics at heart, and we will suspend plenty of disbelief if we’re promised a saccharine ending wherein the two romantic leads have a smooch on top of a mountain.
It is then something of a relief to have a romantic comedy like Jeremiah Chechik’s The Right Kind of Wrong, which actually bothers to emphasize the antisocial and psychopathic behavior of the characters. The leading man in The Right Kind of Wrong is Leo Palomino (Ryan Kwanten), a complete lout, often dishonest, a failure as an author, callous, immature, broodish, boorish, self-indulgent, rude, and lacking in any sort of self-awareness, other than an ego that allows him to bounce back from any and all criticism. Leo is such a jerk that his wife (Kristen Hager) not only leaves him, but publishes a hit blog all about how much he sucks, detailing his every bad habit and character flaw. It’s a credit to Kwanten that he was actually able to make this monstrous man into someone kind of human and relatable. He hits on a bride at her own wedding, and makes it convincing.
That bride is Colette (the revelatory Sara Canning), and while she seems like a stellar and interesting young woman, she also has a tendency to be rude and a little abrasive herself. She has just married the perfect man (Ryan McPartlin), whom she eventually grows wary of because he’s never been out of his comfort zone – never mind that he’s started a camp for unfortunate kids or has won an Olympic gold medal or that he had to pass the Bar to become a lawyer. He’s rich and comfortable, and that’s enough to make him suspect in her mind.
The story involves Leo’s pursuit of the just-married woman. He openly stalks her, and does not apologize for his rudeness. He shakes off all the criticism risen by the widely-read blog about him. Colette, mercifully, does not succumb to his charms. Her drama is separate from his romantic interests.
When The Right Kind of Wrong focuses on its antisocial aspects, it becomes more interesting. It certainly may read as an antidote to a lot of the usual romantic comedies that have come out in the last decade; why not focus on how odd and publicly weird the smitten are being? There is a degree of self-awareness in The Right Kind of Wrong that is sorely lacking from something like, say, That Awkward Moment. Sadly, as the film progresses, and it becomes more and more heavily focused on the inevitable romantic linking of the male and female leads (including some late-film plot machinations that could have been left out), it loses steam and starts to feel perfunctory again. This is a film that could have ended on an honest note, but continues for an extra 15 or 20 minutes just to get the leads together. It feels very, very forced.
What’s more, there are a few supporting characters that aren’t nearly as funny as they ought to be. A pair of big-eyed Indian children banter in drug slang on several occasions, and it’s almost painful. The rich husband has a pair of evil henchmen that could have come from an episode of Dinosaucers. At least I can give credit to the always-reliable Catherine O’Hara – as Colette’s estranged mother – to bring some fresh comic energy to things.
There is a lot to recommend about The Right Kind of Wrong, mostly in the form of the two lead actors. Kwanten is an appealing romantic antihero, and Canning is actually charismatic and interesting – as opposed to most female romcom leads, who are only interesting because the screenplay tells us so. I also liked the small Canadian town in which the film took place; it feels like a lived-in town. Overall, though, it runs out of ideas partway through, and eventually just limps past the finish line.