As Meg Ryan reunites with her trusty best friend—the romantic comedy—the famed When Harry Met Sally star should also think about starting a school for up and coming rom-com leading ladies to prepare them for ultimate superstardom. First enrolled should be Maya Erskine, who starred opposite Ryan’s son Jack Quaid in Plus One. Obviously, Lana Condor of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before fame earns a seat at the table. And lastly, I’d like to pitch Haley Lu Richardson, who just proved her quirky, adorable rom-com chops in Netflix’s Love At First Sight.
Richardson has all the qualifications to be a major rom-com leading lady. She is stellar at playing flustered, but never in a way that feels stressful. Her demeanor is always ruffled with a side of scrappy charm—I’ll have what she’s having, as they say. Richardson’s smile could make a thousand guys fall in love with her at once; her laugh could win a million lovers’ hearts. The actress is adorable, witty, buoyant…how many adjectives do I need to drop before the point is clear?
The most important part, though: Richardson has rom-com hair. Frizzy and curly, but kempt and gorgeous—à la Ryan and Julia Roberts.
Most people will probably recognize Richardson from last year’s stunning sophomore season of The White Lotus, where the actress starred as Portia, the bumbling assistant of Jennifer Coolidge’s fan favorite character. Portia was the opposite of a fan favorite. Everyone loathed her, thanks mostly to her extravagantly terrible outfits and bad taste in men. But guess what—although we all hated Portia, Richardson still managed to captivate and intrigue us every week.
Spin that into a nicer, more well-adjusted character (see also: her thoughtful roles in Columbus and After Yang) and you’d have the perfect rom-com leading lady. This is pretty much what happens in Love At First Sight, which sees Richardson as Hadley Sullivan, a perpetually late girl with a great sense of humor and some emotional baggage. Hadley is Portia if Portia had a witty side and wasn’t so focused on dressing to impress—Hadley, for example, sports old pajamas to the airport for her London-bound red-eye, whereas Portia would probably wear a terrible sweater vest and a jean skirt.
The biggest detractor here, though, is that Richardson has chosen a fairly mediocre rom-com as her breakthrough into the genre. (The word “breakthrough” is used here loosely, seeing as Richardson previously starred in the little-seen romantic drama Five Feet Apart.) Love At First Sight has a boring premise: Destiny pushes Hadley together with golden boy Oliver (Ben Hardy). They accidentally end up on the same flight and end up sitting next to each other, causing them to fall in love.
Hardy and Richardson have electric chemistry! The rom-com, unfortunately, doesn’t keep up with their youthful energy. Although they end up separated in London, fate (played awkwardly by Jameela Jamil) is the driving force behind their entire relationship. They lose each other’s phone numbers, or end up on opposite sides of the plane. Oh well, at least Jamil will show up as a bartender or a flight attendant, always arriving just in time to put them back on the right track.
The movie isn’t terrible, but Richardson (and Hardy, although Richardson is clearly the main character of this movie) deserves better than this lackluster adaptation of Jennifer E. Smith’s original novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. In fact, there’s another novel character Richardson is better fit to adapt.
Fans of Emily Henry’s hugely popular People We Meet on Vacation have started rallying for Richardson to play Poppy, a bubbly travel magazine writer who has a huge crush on her best guy friend. Poppy has short, curly hair—check. She is full of energy and ambition—check. Most endearingly, Poppy is always in a tizzy as she plans her next trip—check, thanks to both The White Lotus and Love At First Sight.
I see why all the People We Meet on Vacation readers have fancast Richardson. With a bunch of serene destinations and a delectable friends-to-lovers arc, People We Meet on Vacation would make a killer second rom-com for the actress. Plus, the film is already in development!
Really, it doesn’t have to be People We Meet on Vacation—Richardson belongs in any rom-com. Although unsatisfying as a story, she made Love At First Sight a delight. On her rom-com tropes bucket list, Richardson has already crossed off the meet cute and star-crossed lovers. What’s next? I’m rooting for friends-to-lovers.
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