Synopsis: Set in the late 1950’s, an aspiring TV producer has an affair with a saxophonist. (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)
Sylvie’s Love is a romance chockful of passion, glamour and passion. It’s also formulaic with eyerolling twists. Whether to watch it or not depends on how hungry you are for a romance versus your tolerance for foolishness.
Tessa Thompson and Nnamndi Asomugha are Sylvie and Robert, the star crossed lovers. The leads are attractive and if I lived in their characters’ neighborhood, I would definitely be gossiping about them. And I will gossip about the actors who play them. Tessa T. has demonstrated her Valkyrie charisma in the Thor movies and her acting talent in the Creed movies. As for Nnamndi, I couldn’t place why his name sounded familiar. I had read that he played football; not something I follow. Hmm, I heard that a big Hollywood star was married to a man of Nigerian heritage who played pro sports. Bam! I bet that this is Kerry Washington’s husband. Yup! Whenever the movie lagged I speculated about their relationship and felt disappointed that they don’t walk the red carpet together. I also wondered if Tessa and singer Janelle Monae –who do appear at events together — are a couple.
So… It’s the summer of 1957 and Sylvie is working at her dad’s record shop. Robert, a saxophonist, is playing at a nearby club with a jazz quartet. He needs a little extra money and gets hired by Sylvie’s dad to work at the record shop. The place is well-stocked with jazz and popular music albums, but seems to never have any customers. This allows Sylvie time to watch TV and plan her career as a producer. Robert makes subtle gentlemanly moves in her direction as they talk and get to know each other. Someone walks into the shop. A customer?! No, just Sylvie’s mom coming in to give Robert side eye and whisper to her daughter that he is low class.
More complications… Sylvie has a fiancé who will soon return from an Army tour in Korea. And Robert will be headed back to Detroit when the band’s summer residency ends.
The two leads capably demonstrate the earnestness and enthusiasm of people in their early twenties pursuing their dreams and romances. But they look like they are both pushing forty. Because they are. I thought it might be one of those movies where there has to be a casting compromise on age because we will be seeing the lovers through the decades, but no, there is only a five year time jump. Fine; I will play along because there is plenty of diverting melodrama. I also liked the Harlem neighborhood scenes with their nostalgic movie set quality. Probably because they actually are a movie set in Los Angeles.
Sylvie and Robert can’t help falling for each other as she dodges her nosey mom for steamy dates and he romances her with his sax talents. They go to the park and watch the stars from a rooftop. You will not forget any of their dates because every twenty minutes or so one of the lovers will smile thinking of their paramour and there will be a montage of what we’ve just seen. But with sultry music playing instead of dialogue.
Before you know it, summer is ending. When the movie does its time jump we get to see if they found a way to stay together. And if Sylvie made a career in TV program production. Did Robert become a famous jazz musician? Will Sylvie’s mother mind her own damned business?
Know that there is a scandal or two along the way (something that the lead actor’s wife knows a thing or two about). But things stretch credulity with a tidy ending that tries to pretend that being foolish is somehow noble.
***SPOILERS*** MOVIE ENDING DISCUSSION… If you plan on seeing the movie come back to this part or if you will skip the flick, read now… I realize that there were no home pregnancy tests in the 1950’s but humans caught on thousands of years ago that sex can lead to pregnancy, right? And can’t men in movies count? Because when a guy has sex with a woman, doesn’t see her for nine months and then she’s like, Hi. This is my newborn baby, he’s like, I wonder whose kid this could be? So, okay, Sylvie doesn’t tell Robert about her pregnancy because she doesn’t want to compromise his career decisions. But this is the late 50’s, wouldn’t she be like, We love each other. I’m preggers. Let’s get married so our kid isn’t stigmatized as illegitimate. I’ll see you after your Paris tour! THEN after he learns the child is his, but he can’t get his dream job because ‘Jazz isn’t hot anymore’ (same problem In La La Land), he leaves his true love and their child to work at a factory in Detroit. He tells her he’s ‘not a family man.’ What, there are no jobs for musicians– or jobs of any kind– in New York City? THEN later Sylvie’s like, Oh, poor baby. He was embarrassed! That’s why he dumped me, turned his back on our daughter and didn’t send any child support . Such a noble sacrifice for him! Uh, I call bulls*** But… the couple was pretty cute until writer-director Eugene Ashe botched the ending.