Set It Up, a Netflix rom com revolving around assistants setting up their horrible bosses, unfortunately set me up for disappointment. Especially as a person of color who adores romance in all of its forms.
I recognize this movie is a huge deal. It’s written and directed by women. I love those aspects, which is why it disappointed me so much.
Disclaimer: I’ll speak on an Asian and a Black character. I am Middle Eastern.
The movie revolves around two assistants who set up their bosses to ease their temperaments. It’s important to note the assistants are Caucasian. One boss is an Asian woman and another is a Black man. I didn’t like the centering of the assistants’ plot and using the bosses as an accessory to them getting their own HEA.
Although, Harper and Charlie (the assistants) are charismatic. She gets emotional over sports and he is on the brink of getting a break, he just knows it. They both know too much about their bosses and are in desperate need for time off.
Off the bat, I felt incredibly uncomfortable with the narrative that frames the marginalized actors as characters who are cruel.
We have Lucy Liu playing the cold career driven Kirsten who won’t attend her friends’ baby showers because she doesn’t have anything in that particular theme to share. She leads a career in sports journalism and I liked that. However, her character seemed to me as two-dimensional and stereotypical. There’s even a bit where she tells Harper she could have gotten divorced three times by then if she hadn’t focused on her career. The stereotype of women needing to sacrifice something for a career felt unnecessary to me.
We have Taye Diggs playing the role of Rick who is a bad father and an even worse ex-husband. Rick is so impossibly unlikable no amount of roses and forced “confessions” could make anyone like him. I found this the worst thing in the movie. The way Rick’s character is written, as a black man in a position of power, is simply him being a violent, arrogant and borderline offensive man. On top of it all? He’s a cheater. Unabashedly so.
It’s incomprehensible to me why black and Asian people have to watch such poorly written representation of themselves. I was so excited to watch a movie that included a romance arc for two people of color.
I loved Harper and Charlie finding that they’re more than their jobs, but why do marginalized people have to sit through butchered characters like Rick and Kirsten’s? Their romance get sidelined as we watched Harper and Charlie built a friendship, and left them with no chance of actually achieving a happy ever after.
Kirsten and Rick’s writing isn’t the only low point for black and brown people in Set It Up.
Charlie’s girlfriend is a young model by the name Suze. Suze is played by the lovely Puerto Rican model and actress Joan Smalls, and is definitely used as the scapegoat to make Charlie realize that he doesn’t want someone as shallow as her. He wants Harper. And a simpler life for himself. Suze’s pursuit for success did not have to contort her into a self-absorbed inflated doll for Charlie to pat himself on the back for getting some.
Overall, I went into Set It Up for a romantic comedy that involved a little enemies-to-lovers where Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs were love interests and maybe a little part of me that crushed on Zoey Deutch. But I got *shrug*
There are plenty of people who watched and enjoyed the movie, and I applaud them. But I didn’t enjoy this at all.