‘The Write Moment’ Has Good Ideas, but Gets Stuck in Some Bad Ones

This riff on ‘Ruby Sparks’ and ‘Groundhog Day’ is mostly fine, but at times kind of troubling

by Philbert Dy

The Write Moment begins with the breakup of Dave and Joyce (Jerald Napoles and Valeen Montenegro). Dave doesn’t take the breakup well, and this leads him into a depression that affects his work. Then, one night, he vents some of his frustrations by writing a screenplay. The next morning, things play out exactly like he wrote it in the first scene of the script. Once he catches on to the rules of this magical convenience, he sets out to use this screenplay as a means to get back with Joyce. But as things go on, he begins to have doubts about his written version of happiness.

There’s no getting around it: it’s kind of a local version of Ruby Sparks, mashed up a little bit with Groundhog Day. It is better to just embrace this now, rather than get caught up in it later. Given that, the movie does seem to approach these ideas with fresh new eyes, filtering them through our specific relationship with romantic media. In its best moments, the film presents the deep emptiness of a love bound to formula, of the artificiality of any relationship that has to adhere to some kind of a script. But lingering in the background is the troubling sense that the movie isn’t really too concerned about delivering a nuanced perspective.

It takes a little while for the film to lay out its premise, but when it does, it rolls quickly into funny territory. The film gets a lot of mileage out of Dave trying to adapt to the situation, and there’s something to the way that he quickly realizes that this isn’t really what he wants. But one does struggle with the general lack of introspection: how the film glosses over their actual relationship, and whatever it is that caused the couple to drift apart. This kind of makes these admittedly funny scenes feel a little empty, their interactions unburdened with the complications of their history.

By the second half, the movie kind of abandons its rules for dramatic effect. This leads the film into an intriguing portion that is more a comment on the genre as a whole, rather than further exploring these characters. But it’s kind of okay. The film ends up getting deeper into the darkness of its premise, with its characters having to robotically act out what should be happy moments. It makes for the film’s most striking images, with the conceptual joy of the situation juxtaposed against the sad reality of the characters.

It’s intriguing, but it doesn’t really all add up. By the end, the film’s ideas come off as underdeveloped at best. But it does couch all of this in a technical package that does more than it probably needed to. It also benefits from likable lead stars. Jerald Napoles tones down his comic persona for this one, and really digs into the more dramatic sides of his character. Valeen Montenegro more than matches her leading man, even with a more limited role that has her literally catering to his writerly whims. A lot of the pathos of this movie stems from her ability to transcend those limitations, expressing something beyond what’s been written.

The Write Moment is a pretty mixed bag all in all. It’s clever, but it feels it is also missing a level of thoughtfulness that could elevate it from being regarded as just a riff on the concepts of other movies. It’s kind of stuck in a singular mindset, when growth in this story requires some greater understanding of the person on the other side. It doesn’t erase the merit of the good ideas, but there are just points where it feels like the movie is mired in worse ideas.