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Love By Chance: Rom-com with purpose

Movies & Theatre

In this Samad David-directed romantic comedy, two South Africans connect on a level that is deeper than just geographical serendipity. Chance Crawford (Kani) and Bailey Kingston (Lawrence) have dreams of making it big as actors in Hollywood.

But before they can even nap that far, they must cut their teeth in the Atlanta scene. The pair meets, by chance, at an audition for an insurance TV advert. Realising they are both South African and, well, that they’re both attractive, they begin to see each other more often.

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Altovise Lawrence and Atandwa Kani in Love by Chance. Picture: Supplied

One of them soars in the acting world, while the other couldn’t get a call back if they dialled *111* on their cellphone. This, predictably, strains their relationship. Will they find their way back to each other and remember why they started on this acting journey in the first place?

This plot sweetly sticks to the requirements of the rom-com genre. Lawrence and Kani definitely have a palpable chemistry between them. Their respective friends bring the comic relief.

Bailey’s BFFs are the perpetually unemployed but always eating Monica (Zimba) and the waitress who has the most sound advice, Sheena (Roberson). In this film, it’s difficult not to see Zimba as a more toned down version of herself. She’s very witty and flirts a lot.

But there is an ease with which the three girls interact that makes the friendship seem plausible. It’s the same for Chance and his friends, Dante (Banks) and Travis (played by Lil Zane – for real!). The Americans give Chance a couch to sleep on while he chases his dreams but they make him pay for it by continually teasing him.

There is an equal amount of making fun of each other’s nationalities in Love by Chance. The strange American names take a beating, as does pronouncing the X in Xolani. In that playful mocking, it seems as though the film was made with both audiences in mind – which is rare for a film set in the US.

Love by Chance is deeper than just bad attempts at accents – although there’s a brilliant montage of the couple practising accents… but I digress. It’s also about taking an honest look at beauty standards in an industry in which people rely on their looks to get a stab at their passion: acting.

Bailey wears a wig to almost all of her auditions and that aspect is first dealt with subtly – like when Sheena tells her the wig looks crooked. As we discover how deep Bailey’s love for acting goes, we see how she just doesn’t fit the “look” that casting agents are searching for, but the longer the tresses, the greater the chance of getting hired.

At it’s core, it’s about being yourself. Ironic for a film about acting. But still. All of those aspects make Love by Chance a must-see. It’s the little things that put a damper on what is otherwise a thoroughly entertaining film.

For instance, when Chance and Bailey discover they are both South African, they have an awkward exchange where one of them says – out of nowhere – “ek sê”, to which the other responds: “sharp”. It’s incredibly corny.

Then there are the names. At one point, Bailey tells her mom that Chance is her bae’s stage name. That’s cool – we understand no one in the ATL can pronounce Xolani. But he tells Bailey he speaks Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and other languages. She, on the other hand, says she only speaks English and Afrikaans. Girl, what? Her mom is played by Nandi Nyembe, who obviously isn’t a first-language English speaker, and there is no explanation as to why Bailey Kingston is her name or why she can’t speak an African language. It’s just not realistic, given the context.

There is also a continuity issue I wondered about. When we meet Bailey, she staunchly believes she needs to look like all the other Atlanta girls – hence the wig. But when she goes to her next audition, not only does she have her hair out but she is wearing dashiki print pants. Huh? How Sway?

Other than that, Love by Chance is good. There isn’t a feeling that American actors are made more important than the South African ones or vice versa. It’s just an enjoyable watch.

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