Ah, rom-coms — a movie genre bursting with women in hyper-specific careers, heroines clumsier than a newborn giraffe, and above all, a happily-ever-after.
In this new age of original streaming content, Netflix is bringing the rom-com back (with a good helping of Hallmark-inspired plotting) in a major way. Their latest title Falling Inn Love follows city girl Gabriela (Christina Milian) as she wins a rustic New Zealand inn and finds herself with a money pit on her hands. Luckily, she has hunky Kiwi contractor Jake (Adam Demos) to help whip it into the B&B of her dreams.
The Netflix romp doesn’t pack quite the same punch as some of their breakout rom-com hits like Set It Up or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but it’s still got plenty of tropes for adoring audiences. So we counted up the clichés in Falling Inn Love (now streaming) to provide you with what we hope is an exhaustive list. So pour yourself a glass of wine, kick up your heels (which you hopefully did not break because you were wearing impractical footwear in an inappropriate location), and fall inn love with the delicious tropes on full display in this film.
Classic rom-com heroine career
Rom-coms are full of successful career women — journalists, interior designers, and of course, architects. Gabriela’s job is never formally named here, but given her tendency to carry around blueprints and her passion for redesigning spaces with solar power (but only chic panels in clever feminine designs!), we’re gonna guess she’s some variation of an architect. Check!
Lame soon-to-be ex-boyfriend
Sometimes our heroine is single, but more often than not she has a really lame boyfriend. Someone who does not appreciate her, who won’t commit, or is just an altogether loathsome individual. Gabriela’s arm candy Dean (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) checks all the boxes on this one — he refuses to consider taking up shelf space in her closet, orders her food for her (and even worse, declines bread, the monster). Part of why Gabriela decides to even enter this contest to win an inn is because of their breakup — and of course, he remains a pest, trying to win her back for much of the film. No self-respecting rom-com ex would ever sink quietly into the background.
Breakup wine session in your PJs
Once that early breakup session is taken care of, our heroine needs to mope in a probably very expensive pair of pajamas with a high thread count. We’re usually treated to a montage involving ice cream consumption, but Gabriela ain’t got time for ice cream! She heads straight for the wine, which, of course, means she drunkenly enters a contest for a chance to win an inn in New Zealand.
The best part of a rom-com is the eye candy — and no, we’re not talking about the hero (though Adam Demos isn’t too shabby). We’re talking about the real estate — the Nancy Meyers’ kitchens, the Nora Ephron Upper West Side apartments, etc. Falling Inn Love hinges upon its fantasy location — a tiny New Zealand town and the dilapidated inn Gabriela wins and transform into an HGTV special. But the entirety of the movie has some wanderlust-inducing locations (this is Netflix’s first film shot in New Zealand) from sprawling green hills to gorgeous beaches.
Searching for cell service in impractical footwear
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a rom-com heroine will never have cell service when she needs it most — and will be wearing seriously impractical footwear while searching for it. But that’s okay because it often leads to a meet-cute (as it does here) thanks to a clumsy incident: Gabriela breaks a heel and her suitcase rolls down the hill into Jake’s truck. But a meet-cute accident isn’t enough for Gabriela. Oh no, she also has to find a goat hiding in her inn (his name is Gilbert, by the way) and get soaking wet (in a tank top, cough) when her attempts to fix the kitchen sink go awry.
Monetary leaps of faith
Romance is often about taking a leap of faith — for another person or possibly yourself. Or in Gabriela’s case, it’s about getting up to your eyeballs in credit card debt renovating an inn you haven’t even decided what you plan to do with once you’re done.
This is really more a Hallmark cliché than a rom-com one, but if your story is about a big city girl out of her element in a sleepy town, you can bet that town is going to be full of overly helpful, sickeningly sweet individuals. They’re here in spades — from the gay coffee shop owners who introduce Gabriela to flat whites (honestly they’re the real heroes) to the garden store lady who doesn’t realize the town doctor is secretly in love with her. And oh yes, this doctor still makes house calls. Because this movie is set in 1955 now, apparently. And if that wasn’t enough, all of the townspeople she befriends offer to help her with things around the inn free of charge. Oh, and did I mention they all belong to the town’s volunteer fire brigade? It’s twee with a capital T.
Long lost love letters
Whether they’re misplaced love letters (or I suppose emails or texts) or a love story from the past that has metaphorical resonance, another favorite rom-com trope is the discovery of some written or visual evidence of romance. Here, Gabriela finds love letters from World War I in the wall of the inn, and she bonds with Jake over reading them.
Are we talking about the same thing?
Is there a smoother rom-com move than complimenting the heroine when she’s talking about something else? Here, Gabriela marvels at their handiwork on the fireplace and calls the restored mantle and hearth “a beaut.” But when Jake agrees with her, saying, “She sure is,” he only has eyes for Gabriela. But of course, she doesn’t notice this totally obvious, not-at-all-subtle admission of his feelings.
The dead girlfriend
What’s a rom-com without a little trauma? For every heroine’s lame ex-boyfriend, there’s just as many dead former lovers of the hero. Of course, Jake has trouble opening himself up to love because the last woman he loved died! It’s terrible! Sob! (And not at all like Roger dating Mimi in Rent….)
Sometimes rom-coms get super sexy, which makes a natural entry point for a shirtless hero. But for more chaste romances, they have to get a little creative. Luckily, Jake gets very hot and sweaty while painting a new porch. What’s a guy to do but take his shirt off and showcase his abs for
the appreciative viewing audience Gabriela? Talk about a post-construction snack.
Kiss interrupted by an animal
It’s the woe of rom-com couples everywhere — things are just getting good, you’re about to kiss (maybe you accidentally tripped and almost landed on his mouth), and then something, usually a four-legged creature, interrupts your moment just to build up that sexual tension and chemistry even more. Gilbert the Goat strikes again (he is truly the breakout star of the film)!
Frolicking in the water
What’s a better first date than a little liquid frolicking? While romantic drama The Notebook will always have a lock on the best version of this (“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird”), it is romantic set-up 101 to have your characters splashing around in some water to show they’re increasing comfort and playfulness with each other. Also, it’s hot. Gabriela and Jake get some of their own splish-splashing in when they go to the New Zealand coast and swim in the waves.
The central project is a metaphor for their love
People are often afraid (or too oblivious) to see what’s staring them in the face, so they need a project to stand in as a metaphor for their journey as a couple. What is more perfect than a joint renovation of a rundown inn for that? “Jake taught me just because something’s broken, you don’t throw it away,” Gabriela tells a crowd. “I’ve learned that the Kiwi way of life is about fixing up what’s not working and treasuring what’s worth saving.” Dude, she is so obviously talking about you. You were broken — and she tended to you! Get it? He does. Because he stares at her meaningfully while he says, “I credit Gabriela for restoring this old inn.” But he really means his heart. Uh, did no one else in the room notice that they’re totally eye-banging each other?
Almost losing it all
The saying goes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, so a rom-com can’t have it’s happy ending without the risk of losing it all. Whether that’s a result of a massive fight, a breakup, or an external disaster, it’s required to make them realize what it is they truly want. Here, it’s a fire, which of course, Jake has to help put out as chief of the volunteer fire brigade. He doesn’t seem real. But then again, he is not.
The final kiss
When all is said and done, it’s time for the happy couple to confess their love for each other and come together in a final smooch. Here, it takes place in the picturesque garden of the inn — and of course, Gilbert the goat is there to look on (and is he acquiring a girlfriend now, too?). You can’t end a rom-com without that final lip lock, and maybe some winking humor to go along with it.
- Christina Milian on new Netflix rom-com Falling Inn Love: ‘Goats are super chill’
- Christina Milian contends with goats and cute carpenters in Netflix’s Falling Inn Love trailer
- All the rom-com references in the Four Weddings and a Funeral pilot
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