Arts & Life

Niche on Netflix: “Out of My League” is a guilty foreign pleasure

Oct. 27, 2021, 7:47 p.m.

Welcome to an escapade into the depths of the knotty, nefarious world that is Netflix, Inc. Home to the most random assortment of Oscar nominees, rom-coms and mockumentaries, with delightfully niche genres like 20th Century Period Pieces for Hopeless Romantics, Dark Suspenseful Viral Plague Movies and (oh my goodness) Depression Era Movies for ages 8 to 10, it can be a frustrating cornucopia to parse through on a lazy Tuesday.

Picture it now: You’ve settled into your little couch nook with friends in the hopes of having some worldview illuminated by an underrated gem, but end up cringing through “Kissing Booth 3,” because Netflix wouldn’t stop yelling at you to click on the trailer, and “there was nothing better.”

Now, I can’t promise I’ll be able to mine the rarest jewel of a film every week, but hopefully this column can aid in preventing those kinds of nights!

As a final note, I am always looking for recommendations — if you have an underrated suggestion you’re just dying to share, shoot me an email at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com!

“Out of My League” (2021)

First up, let me take you to an idyllic town in Italy for a cheesy yet pleasant romantic comedy, ideal for a guilty pleasure you can say was a foreign film or proof that requited love exists.

“Out of My League” centers an eccentric girl who just so happens to be an orphan afflicted with a severe genetic disorder. She prefers not to emphasize the latter. Unfortunately, unlike Hazel Grace Lancaster, she is not the “total babe” brunette bombshell that she describes herself as. Marta is scrawny and pale and sports a scruffy bowl cut complete with misshapen bangs. While she battles a chronic illness, Marta harnesses an alluring voice to work as a grocery store overhead announcer. In her free time, Marta enjoys getting rejected by handsome men on Tinder. Yas, it’s true — as Marta herself best puts it, it’s better to have high standards and get rejected, so that one can at least preserve their dignity.

One night, at a bar with her only two friends, Marta spots Arturo Selva, a seductive hunk of a man whose appeal was certainly not due to the tuxedo effect. In a wink, she has stolen his acquaintance’s phone, added herself to all his socials and found his home address. She drags her two best friends along to stalk him at his rowing club and jogging route, believing that Arturo is unaware and completely satisfied with admiring him from a distance.

Not only does Arturo notice her, but he also mocks her during a chance encounter and only agrees to a date with her out of charity. A horrendous first date (have you ever been surprised by your SO’s family?) turns into an unlikely romance; a montage of whirlwind chemistry ensues.

There are constant pressures in the relationship: the classic disapproving and wealthy family, Arturo’s refusal to stand up to them and, not to be forgotten, Marta’s inability to breathe in dust without having a deathly coughing fit. However, one must applaud the unlikely, natural and almost sickeningly cute development between gawky Marta and hunky Arturo.

While a romantic comedy, this film focuses on more than a flashy plot and eye candy. What makes Marta realistic and multi-dimensional is that despite the gloomy circumstances of her life as an ill, conventionally unattractive young adult, she is still a shallow fangirl. She, like many of us, has not yet found the meaning of life. She, too, commits the most sinister and selfish of actions and transcends the common archetype of the “chronically ill babe.”

There is also a wholesome rapport between Marta and her two best friends, who are equally bizarre human beings battling their own curious difficulties while constantly attempting to knock some sense into Marta.

The crowning flaw of this film, however, is the motivation behind Marta’s attraction to Arturo. One can understand why she became obsessive at first sight, but we never see emotional development in their relationship past a slight kink in Arturo’s family-dependent armor. He is simply a godly stud whose primary moments of unexpectedness are being somewhat witty and loving her back. This issue of shallowness does not detract from a still pleasurable viewing experience, but it sits in the back of the mind. 

We still root for Marta. She radiates an aura of self-awareness — she accepts her place in society, but commits ridiculous, almost unbelievable acts which we as an audience wish we had the guts to do. The show’s depiction of the nerdy girl meets hot guy romance deliberately strays from the norm because of their ever-changing dynamic. The recipe may call for a meet-cute with a clichéd montage and a slight bump in the road turned happily ever after, but most films go no deeper than that. Ultimately, “Out of My League”’s protagonists, despite remaining relatively stagnant, are more dynamic than is standard for a rom-com. Marta truly changes Arturo by helping him pursue his individualism. In return, Arturo does not give up on Marta in times of crisis and helps her with her abandonment issues, which she is used to dealing with by shrugging them off and pulling away from people for her own protection.

One does not need to use too many brain cells to process this movie, even when multitasking to read the subtitles. If anything, the Italian flows off the tip of the tongue like molasses. And hey, you can always tell people you’ve watched at least one foreign film with subtitles.

Nicole Tong '24 is the Reads beat desk editor. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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