Review: Beautiful Disaster (2023)
From Voltage Pictures comes a film-adaptation of the New York Times Best Seller, Beautiful Disaster. It’s an R-rated romantic comedy that, if you haven’t read the book, has a lot more than meets the eye. It’s the age old “he was a fight club champ and she was a poker prodigy” romance.
Before you chuck out a whole genre, let’s talk about the three things that make a good romcom: romance, comedy, and plot.
There’s no denying that Beautiful Disaster falls into a very specific subsection of romance novels. The story started as a self-published book in 2011, and gathered a passionate following online. Fans have been “fan-casting” their favorite actors as Travis and Abby for a while, just waiting for an adaptation like this. It capitalizes on some of the most popular literary tropes: “enemies to lovers,” “good girl persona,” “girl with a dark secret,” “bad boy who’s only good for me,” and so on. Some would say that these are overplayed, but the trick to writing isn’t always coming up with something new; it’s doing something well.
A huge part of this is the characters. No story works if the audience doesn’t care about the people in it. Abby and Travis are both fleshed out and balanced characters. We see both of them at their best, their worst, and their craziest. What’s more, they have chemistry—which should be a given in a romance movie but is all too often missing. Virginia Gardner and Dylan Sprouse do an awesome job playing off each other and playing up the sparks.
Travis’s character is especially unique here. In romances, the girl is often more relatable, quirky, and awkward, simply because it plays to the main audience. Any guys usually fall into archetypes—the bad boy, the boy next door, the lovable nerd—but there isn’t a huge amount of crossover. It’s still relatively refreshing to see the shredded womanizer practicing talking in his mirror because he’s nervous. It makes it easy to love Travis as much as Abby does, instead of leaving you puzzled about what exactly it is she sees in him.
As you can probably tell from the trailer, a lot of the comedy in this movie is awkward or second-hand embarrassment. Someone gets accidentally kneed in face or punched in the stomach. You crush catches you stalking their social media. A person gets wildly drunk and says some things they shouldn’t.
But some of Beautiful Disaster‘s best comedy is in a place you usually wouldn’t find it: the sex scenes.
We’ve all grown used to the phrase “sex sells.” It’s commonplace at this point for a movie have a highly-edited montage of closeup shots set to some mood music. It’s sleek, it’s sexy, and while it can be done well, it often just feels like a poor use of screen time.
Something I really appreciated about Beautiful Disaster is the way its sex scenes add to both the romance and the comedy of the film. Travis and Abby joke with each other; they laugh; they knock into things and break things and struggle to get comfortable in certain positions. Embracing the awkwardness and complications of sex makes these scenes feel a lot richer and purposeful, rather than an obligatory inclusion.
Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl won’t admit she likes boy. Antics, heartfelt confession, roll credits. That’s a basic blueprint for a lot of romcoms. While there’s nothing wrong with simplicity, Beautiful Disaster takes things a step further.
Keeping things as spoiler-free as possible, the final act of the movie strays from romcom into action-adventure territory. Abby’s past catches up with her. Travis’s fighting skills come into play. Characters have to go undercover and track cellphones and escape fires—really exciting stuff!
At the same time, Beautiful Disaster doesn’t forget that it is a romantic comedy. While there’s plenty of action and dramatics in the thick of the film, there’s no jarring transition from one genre to another. It’s simply a romcom that includes beating people with chains!
Beautiful Disaster will only be in theaters April 12 and 13. Tickets are available through the Fathom Events’ website.