Chivalry is dead, or so thinks college senior Blake Conway in the charming comedy “The New Romantic.” Canadian writer-director and AFI alum Carly Stone’s debut feature places a funny, intelligent young woman at the intersection of career ambition, relationship disappointment and 21st century economics that echo a bygone era.
A sex columnist for her school newspaper, Blake points to Nora Ephron and Hunter S. Thompson as her inspirations, but she has not shaken her teenage affinity for Jane Austen in looking for her Mr. Darcy. As played with wonderful brio by Jessica Barden, Blake is goofy, but serious-minded; sensibly stylish but no fashionista; and fiercely determined to prove to her friends and colleagues that she can produce the gonzo writing to which she aspires. She also possesses the kind of callow spunk Lou Grant would have hated.
Stone may lean too heavily on her indie pop soundtrack for tonal transitions, but she’s savvy enough to let the real emotions play out across Barden’s face, which can suggest a soliloquy’s worth of feels in a split second. Stone’s also written some nice supporting roles for Hayley Law, Camila Mendes, Avan Jogia, Brett Dier and Timm Sharp.
“The New Romantic” follows a very familiar arc, but the path is certainly a pleasant one, thanks to Barden’s naturally ebullient performance. Her enthusiasm in the fun parts is infectious, and she holds the camera during the moments of melancholy.
‘The New Romantic’
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD, Nov. 13