We Need to Talk About Dialogue and Character Development: Todd Wolfe’s Gamer Comedy “We Need to Talk” Misses the Target
If you really want to mess with someone’s head, all you have to do is send them a text that says, “we need to talk,” and then wait a few hours before telling them what you want to talk about. It’s a maddening social cliffhanger that will drive anyone crazy with anxiety, and it’s also a great setup for a movie. Writer / director Todd Wolfe begins his gamer comedy flick, We Need to Talk, on a seemingly ordinary morning in the life of a gaming influencer named Scott (James Maslow), who goes by Great Scott online. The typical morning turns into a rather unusual day when Scott’s girlfriend, Aly (Christel Khalil), says that when she gets home from work, the two of them “need to talk.” Scott immediately starts obsessing over what Aly might want to talk about, and he even posts about it on social media for his thousands of subscribers to see. Of course, everyone has a different opinion about the situation, and Scott can only wait until the end of the day to find out what’s really going on. Meanwhile, he needs to finish a video review for a new game that’s about to drop, and his producer / editor Joe (Johnathan Fernandez) won’t get off his case about it. Much like Scott, the audience is left to wonder what Aly wants to talk about, and that curiosity keeps us watching through corny dialogue and insincere character development. We Need to Talk may not have a whole lot to offer, but at least it’s got a story question that will keep you watching until the end (or perhaps make you want to fast-forward just to see the end).
Apart from the language and adult humor, We Need to Talk is very similar to Hallmark Channel rom-coms. It’s straightforward, predictable, and easy to follow (you could skip over entire scenes and not miss much). It also lacks any sort of emotional depth or sincerity, and it’s full of unnatural, robotic dialogue that the cast tries to hide by overacting. But unlike a Hallmark rom-com, which is usually about a relatable working girl who breaks off her engagement with a corporate stiff in order to marry a Christmas tree farmer, We Need to Talk is about the corporate stiff — he’s just been rewritten as a fratty gaming influencer. Rom-com fans will often sit through 90 minutes of awful dialogue and mediocre acting just to see a relatable protagonist fall in love with a sweet, charming man (who’s secretly Santa), but Scott is so unredeemable that he makes We Need to Talk even more difficult to watch. While self-absorbed men can make for pretty hilarious rom-com characters, Scott isn’t a comedic sidekick. He’s the main character, and we’re supposed to take him seriously. But that’s difficult to do when he talks like the bully from an anti-bullying commercial. The most frustrating part is that Scott doesn’t change. In the last few scenes of the movie, we get to see part of a video in which Scott explains to his viewers why he’s been off the grid for a while. And much like the influencers who have had to make apology videos in real life to avoid being canceled, Scott claims to have changed. But in reality, he’s still the same jerk he’s always been. The people around him have just gotten better at putting up with him.
If We Need to Talk gets one thing right, it’s that social media and influencer culture are negatively impacting our relationships. But the movie doesn’t have anything helpful or insightful to say about the problem. Despite its intriguing story question, We Need to Talk unfolds in a predictable way: the protagonist’s actions come back to bite him in the butt (even though he doesn’t really learn from it), he remembers why he wanted to be an influencer in the first place, and he makes a half-hearted attempt to fix things (in a way that doesn’t cost him anything, of course). The two biggest redeeming qualities of We Need to Talk are Christel Khalil’s brief but believable performance as Aly and the surprise gamer and influencer cameos. We Need to Talk will likely find its place in a small community of fans, but it leaves much to be desired.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."