‘Tis the season to celebrate the charms of one Zoey Deutch!
Romantic holiday fare is standard for this time of year – well, at least standard for me. I find this genre and all its cozy, idealistic cheese immeasurably comforting. The perfect holiday rom-com will come in at just under 90 minutes, someone who owns a bakery or an inn will fall in love, and I’ll feel no need to fret over whether I just watched a cinematic masterpiece or not, because the answer is most likely no – it was probably just kind of nice.
“Something From Tiffany’s,” director Daryl Wein’s new holiday rom-com, mostly delivers on those low-stress comforts we know and love. But if you’re the type whose eyes start to glaze over at run-of-the-mill holiday fare, the film has an ace up its sleeve – Zoey Deutch.
For the past several years, Deutch has been a welcome, fresh presence in the romance and comedy field. Here, she stars as Rachel, a bakery owner (an essential holiday romantic comedy profession) muddling her way through a hapless relationship with her tattoo artist boyfriend Gary (Ray Nicholson). One night before Christmas, Gary gets hit by a car outside of Tiffany’s, where he has just bought a pair of earrings for Rachel as a last minute gift. Ethan (Kendrick Sampson) and his daughter Daisy (Leah Jeffries) witness the accident and rush to help. In the confusion, Ethan accidentally picks up the box with Gary’s earrings, leaving Gary with the engagement ring that Ethan bought for his girlfriend Vanessa (Shay Mitchell). Chaos ensues.
It’s a great set up for a movie that’s a perfectly adequate entry into the canon. “Something From Tiffany’s” earnestly plays up its genre trappings to a level that filled the holiday movie-sized hole in my heart. The dialogue is predictably cheesy, with plenty of baking and bread-related metaphors about love. Commuters pull their coats tighter around themselves as they hustle through the New York City streets, surrounded by twinkling lights with Christmas music and jazz standards playing in the background – easy to swallow, easy to like holiday fare. Nothing particularly great or terrible about it.
But then, there’s Deutch. With her in the film’s corner, the most banal dialogue, the most formulaic character beats, feel invigorated somehow. She easily takes control of every moment, armed with disarmingly natural charisma and a girl-next-door energy that’s as quirky as it is charming. That’s not to say other actors don’t have their moments – Jojo T. Gibbs brings an endearingly dry wit to an otherwise standard best friend character, and Deutch’s chemistry with Sampson is believable enough. But whenever the film leaves Deutch for too long, you find yourself longing to get her back.
Deutch has a particular talent, one she shares with rom-com leading ladies of yore, to live in the moments with no dialogue, conveying layers of emotion through just her physicality. When Rachel discovers the Tiffany box – the one with the engagement ring meant for Vanessa – after getting home from the hospital, Deutch plays up the comedy of the discovery without going overboard. Her movements are considered and sharp, whether she’s scrounging up her hair into a bun or wrinkling her brow in anxious confusion. In one moment, she stares unblinkingly at the little blue box while she chomps down on her food, each minor change in her expression meticulously deliberate. She never over-exaggerates, but rather puts every ounce of tension she has into the smallest of movements to make them feel larger than life.
It’s not just the comedic bits where Deutch excels. In another moment, she walks down the city streets, nervously fiddling with the ring on her finger. She doesn’t speak, but we see her make a couple of big decisions during this sequence. Whether it’s with an exhale of resolve or a slight set to her jaw as she drums up the will to keep moving forward, she does it all without saying a word.
Deutch’s superpower is her ability to connect with the world around her – however silly, trite, or overblown that world may be – and have that connection feel utterly natural. She takes the silliest of moments seriously, earnest in a way that elevates the actors around her. “Thank you for being exactly who you are through all of this,” she says to Ethan – a man she just met maybe a day ago – when she gives him back the engagement ring that her boyfriend accidentally stole from him. It’s quite a ridiculous situation – and quite a ridiculous thing to tell someone you just met – but there’s such sincerity in her eyes, without a trace of winking, that you believe her.
Watching Deutch in “Something From Tiffany’s” has made me want to return to some of her other comedy and romance staples, in particular “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Set It Up.” I hope she gets the chance to keep delivering to the romantic comedy hole in my heart. In the 1990s or early 2000s, she might have already had her own version of “Sleepless in Seattle” or “While You Were Sleeping.” Perhaps her Tom Hanks would be Glen Powell. Maybe we can still make that happen. A girl can dream.