Why is the fizzy, romantic comedy "The Broken Hearts Gallery" attracting such intense scrutiny in Hollywood? In two words: box office.
Defying assumptions that rom-coms can't compete against big-screen spectacles for getting ticket buyers out of lockdown and into the multiplex, the studio is counting on a largely-female audience, looking for a millennial "Sex and the City," to come out and support a small but sweetly personal film. Will they? Would you? Written and directed by Natalie Krinsky in her feature debut, "The Broken Hearts Gallery" features breakout star Geraldine Viswanathan, who was so good as the student reporter taking on embezzler Hugh Jackman in "Bad Education." She plays Lucy, a 20-something Manhattan art gallery assistant who hoards souvenirs from her busted relationships -- and they're really adding up. She clings to the necktie of co-worker Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar) after he dumps her for an ex, which leads to an embarrassing public display at the gallery, and which then causes her boss (Broadway legend Bernadette Peters) to fire her.
Lucy wallows in self-pity for a bit. Can you blame her? But her support system isn't a new guy, it's her roommates -- the comically vengeful Amanda (Molly Gordon) and the proudly gay Nadine, stylishly played by Phillipa Soo, who was nominated for a Tony for her role as the wife of the "$10 founding father" in "Hamilton." Don't bother with games about who's playing Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha to Lucy's Carrie. The sex in this city is decidedly post #MeToo, more akin to the femcentric universe Lena Dunham created with "Girls," where instead of cosmo-sipping sophisticates in Jimmy Choos, the women are relatable to a world we can recognize as our own.
In fact, Lucy's next relationship happens almost by accident. His name is Nick and he's played by Dacre Montgomery, best known as Billy, the hot bully, on "Stranger Things." On first meeting, Lucy mistakes Nick for a Lyft driver. Instead, he's another bruised romantic who does Lucy one better by building a boutique hotel named after his former girlfriend, Chloe. It's Nick who offers Lucy space in his hotel to exhibit her broken hearts gallery, which suddenly becomes a thing as women -- and some men -- show up with their own tokens of rejection.
Viswanathan and Montgomery have a palpable chemistry that helps the movie over its more formulaic setups. Both Lucy and Nick need to heal before they can grow into themselves. The bouncy one-liners that pepper the first half of the film are replaced by a touching gravity that will broaden the film's appeal. Selena Gomez, who executive produced "The Broken Hearts Gallery," isn't making any grand promises, arguing only that her film "brings some love and laughs into a world that needs it now more than ever." Who's going to argue with that?