Meet Cute, which recently premiered on Peacock, isn't your typical rom-com. In the film, Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) goes on a first date with Gary (Pete Davidson) over and over and over again, all thanks to...a time-traveling tanning bed. And that's not the only way it veers off the rom-com path: On a more serious note, Sheila and Gary are working through various forms of trauma. Director Alex Lehmann (Paddleton) speaks to EW about taking inspiration from pain and using it to create a new kind of romantic comedy that seems fitting for 2022.
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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea of Meet Cute come from?
ALEX LEHMANN: I'm not a fan of classic rom-coms. I wanted to explore what happens when a character is fighting for a long-term relationship, and the unintentional scars and trauma that come with it — and yet, that person still sticks with it. To me, that's really romantic. And I really wanted to challenge the idea of, if you find the right person, all your problems will be fixed.
Mental health and trauma are major themes in the film, not the usual rom-com topics.
Silver Linings Playbook was a big inspiration for me initially, because it shows that people who are struggling will search for love, usually in all the wrong ways. I wanted to make a film that showed that these characters' brokenness is ok. I find the idea of two people meeting and having their neuroses line up really attractive. It feels so honest to me. I think we're all a lot less complete than we represent, and I think showing that is something a lot of viewers will relate to.
I also think it helps make the characters more deep and real. The character of Sheila is a control freak in the film because she's so afraid of the future. Because a lot of things have happened that are out of her control, so she's now trying extra hard to exert a level of safety that she's never had. It's tragic because she's literally choking the reins so tightly that she's suffocating everyone out of her life. And the worse it gets, the harder she squeezes.
But is she a bad person? No, she's just trying to protect herself. As the film goes on, and as the viewers see that, I think they'll empathize with her more and see that those bad traits come from bad places, it doesn't inherently mean a person is "bad".
Both Pete and Kaley are pretty open about their mental health in real life. What conversations did you have beforehand and how did they relate to their characters?
We didn't have a ton of time to rehearse… so we actually didn't rehearse at all. Instead, we spent that extra time getting to know each other and getting comfortable with each other. There's a big piece of the real Pete and the real Kaley in the film, and a big piece of the real me behind the camera. I was really fortunate to be able to see so much of their authenticity come through. That isn't something that always happens in a film. It requires trust, both me trusting them and them trusting me.
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What were some of your favorite moments while shooting?
We did a lot of laughing. It was like working in a comedy club for a month. Kaley and Pete texted me constantly asking for clips and outtakes because they were so funny. Like, one time Pete went into this giant rant about Jaws while we were filming the Indian restaurant scene. He just started riffing on Jaws and went on for five minutes straight. During another shoot, he went off on the finale of Titanic. It was great to see him having a good time.
Personally, I loved making this movie so much that I'd love for it to continue, both the fun behind the scenes and the narrative on-screen, because I think there are so many more stories we can tell.
Is this you hinting at a sequel?
I'll say this, there are definitely some characters I would love to explore further in a sequel. I mean, c'mon. We have a tanning bed that's actually a time machine!
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