‘Choose Love’ gives the rom-com a strained interactive twist

Netflix’s periodic adventures in interactivity

Young-adult romance would seem like a fertile genre for Netflix’s periodic adventures in interactivity, allowing viewers to make decisions for the protagonist and even select the guy they’d like to see her pick.

Yet “Choose Love” strains the storytelling to fit the gimmick, in a special that does its central character no favors by making her race through the trio of suitors suddenly in her life.

Netflix has dabbled in this technology before with mixed results, including interactive “Black Mirror” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” specials in recent years. The choices – things like “good news” or “bad news” – have a way of leading toward the same inexorable end, which makes the idea of deciding the outcome of a love quadrangle intriguing, at least on its face.

Alas, “Choose Love” bites off at least one more option than it can comfortably chew, while forcing its very in-demand protagonist, Cami Conway (Laura Marano, a Disney Channel veteran, now grown up), into a series of unattractive choices that range from fickle to flighty to vaguely cruel.

Frequently addressing the audience directly, Cami begins by meeting with a Tarot card reader who warns her that she’ll be given a chance to choose from among three men, which sounds improbable given that she’s currently in a years-long relationship with her boyfriend Paul (Scott Michael Foster), a guy so in sync with her they’re an unbeatable game-night tandem.

In short (indeed, very short) order, though, Cami is tempted by the return of the high-school flame that got away, Jack (Jordi Webber), and a British rock star, Rex (Avan Jogia), with whom she instantly clicks while doing her job as a sound engineer.

The customary midlife crisis (let’s look up that old boyfriend on Facebook!) thus becomes a mid-20s explosion of angst that threatens to make Cami look like a bit of a shallow jerk, which frankly doesn’t change all that much whether the viewer chooses to have her tell Paul about Jack.

Because rom-coms are also usually pretty clear on what the “right” outcome is, about the most fun one can have watching “Choose Love,” somewhat sadistically, is by consistently steering Cami into what feels like the wrong direction and watching the movie try to course correct for her selfishness.

Those with the time can play around with Cami’s decisions (the format allows the viewer to go back and revise them), but it’s hard to come away feeling wholly satisfied. Mostly, the special offers a reminder that the cartwheels required to assemble this sort of choose-your-own-adventure exercise, while theoretically intriguing, seldom match the appeal of a well-told story.

As for whether “Choose Love” is worth bothering with at all, while it’s interesting to see where the state of the art on this wrinkle currently resides, that choice, too, is ultimately yours.

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