I absolutely adore Lili Reinhart in CW’s Riverdale, and she was a true highlight in films like Hustlers and Chemical Hearts. Now, romantic dramedy Look Both Ways calls on Reinhart to approach adulthood through two different perspectives that could lead to similar outcomes. While the concept behind this Netflix movie is charming and delightful, the execution leaves much to be desired. The editing is bizarre, often leading to confusion when it comes to portraying differing viewpoints. Still, fans of Reinhart may revel in her newest effort—one that certainly shows off her charisma and uniqueness, yet leaves depth and purpose on the cutting room floor.
Natalie (Reinhart) is on the cusp of greatness. She has a strict five-year plan that is set to culminate in Los Angeles super-success. However, one spontaneous decision with her drummer bestie Gabe (Danny Ramirez, Top Gun: Maverick, No Exit) will change the course of her life forever. The two have a night together that evolves into a sexual encounter. From here, Look Both Ways posits an interesting analysis, to say the least. Without explicitly telling the audience why or stating which scenario is the “real” one, we follow Natalie on one timeline in which she becomes pregnant with Gabe’s baby, and another where it was just a false alarm.
One would assume that an event as life-changing as a pregnancy could be handled with nuance and grace—certainly, screenwriter April Prosser tries her best to make teenage pregnancy as tumultuous of an experience as in real life. In this timeline, Natalie’s parents (played by Luke Wilson and Andrea Savage) are furious with her, and want Gabe to give up on his dreams, too. Natalie dashes her L.A. plans, so why not Gabe and his musical endeavors? They never intended to be a real couple, but can they co-parent together as friends? The ups and downs of raising a baby, while juggling the heavy weight of being a mother, color this half of the film.
Natalie’s false alarm gives way to her relocating to L.A. with best friend Cara (Aisha Dee, Sissy). At first, Natalie struggles to find anything of substance here, where it seems any given job is merely an unpaid internship. Longing to pursue her love for animation, Natalie attempts to snag an assistant gig with her idol, Lucy Galloway (Nia Long, Boyz in the Hood, Big Momma’s House), with the help of a cute boy she meets while attempting to sneak into a guest-listed, exclusive event. It turns out this boy, Jake (David Corenswet, Hollywood, The Politician), actually works for Galloway already, and could be a perfect in. Their unconventional meet-cute soon turns from casual flirtation to full-on relationship as they bond despite disagreements over live action adaptations of animated films.
One half romantic comedy, one half pregnancy dramedy, Look Both Ways is split in a weird way that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a narrative standpoint. The only thing differentiating the two extremes in any real way are the two love interests, Gabe and Jake. In a way, the film forms a half-baked love triangle that exists only between the two different parts of Natalie. The movie never bothers trying to explain why we are even witnessing these disparate versions of Natalie’s life, nor does it ever embrace the fun that could be had by leaning harder into either direction. The comedy bits are outdated, and the needle drops misguided. Look Both Ways ultimately feels in need of some guidance of its own, even though the ensemble cast is having a great time.
Look Both Ways shows off two opposing perspectives when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Wednesday, August 17th.