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‘Forever My Girl’ review: Country singer romance hits a sour note

Jessica Rothe and Alex Roe in

Jessica Rothe and Alex Roe in "Forever My Girl." Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions / Jacob Yakob

PLOT A country-music singer who once left a woman at the altar returns home to face her.

CAST Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe

RATED PG (some adult talk)

LENGTH 1:44

BOTTOM LINE A gauzy romance that seems designed to feed male fantasies.

“Forever My Girl” tells the story of Liam Page (Alex Roe), a budding country singer who leaves his Louisiana hometown to pursue his dreams. He also leaves behind his high-school sweetheart, Josie Preston (Jessica Rothe), who was waiting at a church in a wedding dress. Eight years later, a world-famous Liam returns to town and finds that Josie is still single. Can Liam make amends and win back the love he threw away?

The movie spins a fantasy that seems to me distinctly male: the ex-girlfriend who never got over you. That’s all Josie is — an old flame, frozen in time, waiting patiently for her man’s return. Just about anyone with a level head would see “Forever My Girl” as the story of a narcissist manipulating a naive doormat. But the film’s creators — Heidi McLaughlin, who wrote the source novel, and writer-director Bethany Ashton Wolf — see it as the stuff of romance.

The movie asks us to pity Liam, a brooding rock star (the slick songs are by Brett Boyett and Jackson Odell) who sates himself with groupies but wallows in regret over Josie. Can she ever forgive him? Luckily, God gave Liam two sparkly blue eyes, which is about all it takes to soften Josie’s heart. What’s more, Josie has a present for him: their daughter, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson). No diaper changing necessary, because Billy is already an adorable mini-adult, ready for mentoring (she has her daddy’s gift for music, natch).

It hardly matters that Roe’s Liam is a photogenic bore, or that Rothe’s girl-next-door beauty makes Josie’s low self-esteem all the more exasperating. There’s no getting around the story, which embraces some of the most warped ideas about love since “Fifty Shades of Grey.” One reason Josie can’t resist Liam, by the way, is because he’s rich. When Josie asks to be taken on a fancy date and paraded in front of the paparazzi, we know she’s a goner.

Spoiler alert: In the end, Josie gets a wealthy husband and Billy gets a famous father. As for Liam, he gets eight years of world travel and casual sex, then returns home to take his place as the head of an adoring family. I guess everybody wins.

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