Starring: Rachael Leigh Cook, Scott Ly, Quinn Truc Tran
Directed: Steven K. Tsuchida
hile watching A Tourist’s Guide to Love (ATGTL), one is eerily reminded of Irrfan Khan’s Kareeb Kareeb Single, which was basically a very gorgeous travelogue of India’s diverse geography, tied together by the chemistry between the leads, and of course, Khan’s presence, which just classes any production up.
Only in ATGTL, the location is Vietnam, and well done to whomever mobilized this project, because tourism will surely increase in the wake of this soulful, soul-searchy story.
The plot is one that is just an out and out Hollywood trope, with Cook’s Amanda Riley playing the role of workaholic, type-A woman, living her best life with her boring boyfriend (he did her taxes after a week of dating), and working as an agent for a travel company.
Anticipating a marriage proposal, but basically being told her boyfriend is rumspringa-ing off to Ohio, Amanda agrees to go check out Vietnam with a tour company that her employers are planning to acquire.
She arrives with a list to tick off, and ticks off one item she hadn’t even listed on the agenda: love.
Okay, so you know what’s gonna happen as soon as the movie begins. Amanda Riley could have been Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses, or The Ugly Truth, and Sinh, her tour guide to Vietnam is every sensitive boy you’ve ever seen in a romcom who teaches the heroine that life is simple but beautiful. And in ATGTL, we get to see it all against beautiful locations and earthy sounds, with an intimidating grandma thrown in for luck.
What can you say about a film that is so bah-sic, except, watch it? It won’t be the worst thing you’ve seen on Netflix? Like, there are a lot of contenders for that, but this isn’t really one of them. At worst, you are reminded that traveling to Vietnam is now a mere dream (in this economy), and at best, you accept your fate and allow yourself to travel the beautiful historical sites and villages, and robust markets vicariously.
The upside here for ‘90s kiddos is Rachael Leigh Cook, who won us over in She’s All That and Josie & The Pussycats when we all still believed in love, friendship, and Freddie Prinze Jr. It’s nice to see a familiar face, and her chemistry with Scott Ly is really cute, which makes you root for them, specially when the camera pans out and you see this village street, dotted with lights, mellow in the blue dusk.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection