An Okay November
There are 24 hours in the day and if advertising exec Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) could work every one of them he would because he is a driven man whose career is going places. Unfortunately unless Nelson gets to the DMV to take a test he won't be going anywhere in a hurry. It is at the DMV that he meets Sara Deever (Charlize Theron) and accidentally causes her to be kicked out of the test when he tries to cheat. An observer of men, Sara suggests to Nelson that he spends the whole of November with her and she will change his life, something he dismisses until he ends up sacked for being too forthright with a customer and his girlfriend Angelica (Lauren Graham) leaves him so he ends up back at Sara's not entirely sure why. But one day leads to another and Nelson falling in love with Sara except there seems to be something she is not telling him.
Spoiler alert: be warned I will be revealing part of the plot in this review.
I think "Sweet November" on paper is a good movie; we have a workaholic advertising exec whose life is thrown in to disarray and he ends up falling for someone his complete opposite who ends up rubbing off on him except she has a secret, she is dying from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Unfortunately what transpires on screen is by no means as good as it could have been with lots of little things causing it to come undone and leaving you distinctly under whelmed by what ends up not the emotional movie it should have been.
The trouble starts with the generic opening which has more than its share of rom-com going on as we meet the workaholic Nelson who can't see that he has a smoking hot girlfriend as he is too busy. We then have the meet cute, that typical accident where are two lovers come together in an awkward way. But starting off on the rom-com vibe is wrong for how this movie plays out as is the romantic, soft lit cinematography which goes to create this fairytale existence where you have romantic walks along the beach and meals in front of twinkling lights on a bush at night. It really feels like for the first half director Pat O'Connor wants to make you think that all "Sweet November" is is a typical rom/com which is light on the comedy although Jason Isaacs in a sequin dress is certainly a humorous sight and a cliche one as his character Chaz is Sara's best friend.
But that leads to another problem because we have the fact that there is the supposed twist as Nelson discovers that Sara is not only really sick but is dying which is why she only spends a month with men as it means they finish with her still in a good way rather than becoming ill. The thing is that for Nelson not to realise this earlier is frankly unbelievable even for someone supposedly self obsessed. And whilst of course it is important as it makes him do some soul searching when he learns the truth it just doesn't have the right impact because of the way the first half works.
Part of the problem with "Sweet November" stems from the casting and firstly whilst Jason Isaacs is a sight when you get to see him in a sequin dress he mumbles his way through almost the entire movie with a Scottish accent which isn't even critical to the movie nor is his cross dressing. But then there is Reeves and Theron who both are attractive and popular and do their best but there is no spark, no real romantic energy which leads you to invest yourself in their relationship and feel the pain during the movie's final third.
What this all boils down to is that I still believe that "Sweet November" could have been a great movie which really tugs at your heart strings but what they ended up with is a movie which doesn't quite work or fully escapes from its generic first half.