At first glance, “Set It Up” — Netflix’s original movie about two overworked assistants who scheme to pair up their demanding bosses — seems like yet another cheesy romantic comedy. And in some ways, it is.
It’s also one of the best movies on Netflix (or anywhere else) right now.
If you’re a Netflix subscriber, chances are you’ve seen a promo for “Set It Up,” which follows Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) as they try to get their high-powered bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs, respectively) to date each other. Liu plays Kirsten, a successful ESPN sports reporter running a digital start-up; Diggs’s Rick is a venture capitalist and kind of a jerk. You can probably guess what happens next, and that’s totally okay because the movie is just delightful.
Netflix does not share ratings information — unless it’s shaming the very dedicated fans of questionable Christmas movies — but, anecdotally, people are watching “Set It Up” and really enjoying it. That’s particularly impressive considering the sheer amount of original movies in Netflix’s ever-expanding catalogue. The movie also boasts a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Even Jonathan Van Ness, of “Queer Eye” fame, is a fan. He called it a “gorgeous rom-com” and described the film as “kind of like gift of the magi-ish in the sense that you think it’s about one setup, but really, honey, [it’s] about another setup.”
We’ll ignore the obvious cross-branding here because he’s 100 percent right. If that’s not enough to convince you, here are a few other facts to know about “Set It Up,” and why you should watch it.
1) “Set It Up” embraces romantic comedy traditions.
The plot follows the rom-com formula to a T, and that’s a large part of why it works. Charlie and Harper are trying to set up their bosses, which inevitably means there will be a confrontation about their scheming in the end. (Their characters compare their plan to both “The Parent Trap” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.”) It also means they will be spending a lot of time together — against the romantic backdrop of New York City, no less.
So, there’s tension waiting for Kirsten and Rick to figure out what their assistants have been up to, and there’s tension waiting for Charlie and Harper to realize the inevitable, and then to act on it — or so we hope.
2) Deutch and Powell have great chemistry.
Liu and Diggs are the film’s marquee names, but Powell and Deutch are the true leads. Both are relative newcomers in comparison: The two co-starred in Richard Linklater’s 2016 comedy “Everybody Wants Some!!” and have had a handful of other TV and film roles. Deutch may also look familiar because she looks an awful lot like her mom, actress Lea Thompson.
Deutch brings an adorable energy to Harper. And in a slight but welcome deviation from rom-com tradition, Powell’s Charlie is actually a pretty nice guy. Their chemistry is especially evident in a standout scene that involves a ladder, a pizza pie and some lingering will-they, won’t-they stares. Also, dimples, all around.
From the moment Harper and Charlie meet while trying to procure dinner for their impossibly picky charges at the end of a very long day, you want to root for them, both romantically and professionally. Which brings us to . . .
3) It treats millennials (and their careers) with respect.
Harper and Charlie are admittedly selfish in wanting to set Kirsten and Rick up, since less time managing their bosses’ calendars means they’ll be free to live their own lives a bit. But it’s also spurred by a desire to take charge of their own careers. “I don’t need to be free, I need to be promoted,” Charlie tells Harper.
Harper inspires Charlie to think about what he really wants to do, because it becomes clear that venture capital isn’t it. In turn, Charlie encourages Harper to do some writing of her own, instead of just helping Kirsten commission writers for her start-up. Neither appear to be living on their parents’ dime, or harboring unrealistic expectations about what it takes to be successful.
4) “Set It Up” features great supporting characters.
To its credit, “Set It Up” doesn’t devote too much time to sidekicks. But it does allow for a few memorable supporting performances.
Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) brings his trademark wackiness to his role as Creepy Tim, the elevator operator in the building where Harper and Charlie work. Reviews have been a bit more mixed for “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson, who plays Charlie’s gay roommate, but also somehow seems to be playing himself. (For the record, we think it works.)
Meredith Hagner, who has mastered the clueless millennial character in TV shows such as “Search Party” and “Younger,” plays Harper’s newly engaged roommate, Becca. Becca makes a sentimental engagement speech that ultimately leads Harper to consider the moral dilemma of setting up Kirsten and Rick.
It goes something like this: A slightly inebriated Harper realizes that Kirsten and Rick don’t have what she calls an “and yet.” “That . . . ‘love despite’ thing when there are . . . all these reasons it shouldn’t work out, but they don’t care,” she tells Charlie. “Like Romeo and Juliet. We’re mortal enemies. And yet.”
“Set It Up” is kind of like that. It’s wildly predictable and a little cheesy. And yet, it’s an absolute gem of a movie that, yes, you really should watch.