FOREVER MY GIRL
Director: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Cast: Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe, John Benjamin Hickey, Abby Ryder Fortson, Tyler Riggs, Peter Cambor, Gillian Vigman
MPAA Rating: (for thematic elements including drinking, and for language)
Running Time: 1:44
Release Date: 1/19/18
Review by Mark Dujsik | January 18, 2018
The baffling premise of Forever My Girl is that a young woman would wait eight years for her high school boyfriend to get his act together, even though the slug hasn't contacted her since he left her just before walking down the aisle. Josie (Jessica Rothe) has made a fine life for herself since then. She owns and runs a small business. She has enough of a good head on her shoulders to achieve this, despite being wounded by an ungrateful cad at the worst possible moment, and she's also raising a daughter quite well on her own.
It's nearly impossible to believe that Josie wouldn't have had one, two, or 20 guys notice her since she was unceremoniously dumped at her wedding ceremony. In case her other qualities aren't enough to convince someone of this, she's quite attractive. Surely, someone would have asked her out on a date at some point, and surely, she's smart enough to figure out that the guy who abandoned her isn't coming back.
She had to have figured that out at some point between taking off her wedding dress and the moment she literally bumps into him eight years later. Josie must have accepted that date and probably a slew of others, and most certainly, one of those guys had to have been better than Liam Page (Alex Roe), the guy she was going to marry if he hadn't left her to become a big country music star.
The screenplay by director Bethany Ashton Wolf (based on Heidi McLaughlin's book) doesn't even entertain the possibility that Josie had a love life after Liam left. She's presented as some virginal figure of the virtue of first-and-only love. She's the right woman. It's only a matter of time before Liam realizes that fact, and when he does, she'll be there, waiting for him. In the meantime, if Liam gets drunk, sleeps with a bunch of groupies, regrets his decisions in the morning, and repeatedly listens to Josie's pleading phone message for him to call back for some important news eight years ago, well, that only shows how much he really loves Josie. It also shows how he just can't bring himself to risk that kind of love.
This is silly and more than a tad demeaning to Josie, whom Wolf firmly establishes as a solid, independent, and intelligent woman, only to turn her into an object of inevitable happiness for Liam. The movie wants us to believe that Liam, as he is at the start of the story, doesn't deserve Josie. The point is for Liam to change—to become the right man for her. The movie never once asks if Josie—and, for that matter, her daughter—would be better off without Liam.
The answer is that she definitely would be, but the movie is founded on a few fantasies: that Josie would basically wait for Liam, that the right woman can change a terrible guy, and that we're supposed to find any of this romantic. Instead, the movie insults our common sense in order to provide an unlikely daydream about the unbreakable bonds of love and family. Well, they're unbreakable for Josie, at least.
Liam finds himself back in his Louisiana hometown after the death of an old friend. At the funeral, Josie bumps into Liam with her daughter Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson) in tow. The daughter, by the way, is 7 years old, and yes, Billy is also Liam's daughter. That was the news. Liam ignored it, and he also ignored his father Brian (John Benjamin Hickey), the church's pastor, when he went all the way to Seattle to tell his son that he had a daughter. Now, Liam wants to get to know Billy and, hopefully, have her call him her "dad."
It's a redemption tale, obviously, but it's one that never convinces us that Liam even wants to redeem himself. It plays a good game, with scenes of the old lovers reconnecting and Liam winning the affection of his precocious daughter. The whole thing builds to a decision, of course, in which Liam finally has to decide between his narcissistic self-loathing (founded in the death of his mother, apparently, and heightened by being famous—poor, poor Liam) and being a decent man.
Let's just say that Liam makes the choice we expect from him, before he makes the inevitable choice. Meanwhile, Josie (played by Rothe with a depth that the character doesn't deserve) just waits and waits. Forever My Girl defies that old saying about being fooled twice. There's a reason no one has ever come up with a maxim about being fooled three times.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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