Warning: Spoilers are ahead for Love, Guaranteed.
In 1987, Tiffany turned her cover of Tommy James and the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now" into a cheeky anthem for teeny bopper mall rats. But in Netflix's new rom-com Love, Guaranteed the song is a bit more bittersweet. That was the point, according to the film's star Rachael Leigh Cook. "We had to find something that could be both fun enough to capture the tone of the movie," she told Refinery29. "And also sort of be hilariously tragic later on."
The pop hit, which popped up in the first season of The Umbrella Academy, certainly works on two levels in Love, Guaranteed. The idea of finally being alone with someone you're crushing on would make "I Think We're Alone Now" a triumphant anthem for workaholic lawyer Susan (Cook), who only seems to notice those who need legal advice. The words sung by the then 15-year-old Tiffany (last name Darwish) could also stand for the literal loneliness Susan will feel if she doesn't start spending time with people who aren't her clients.
Two minutes into the film, Tiffany's cover plays for the first time, soundtracking a smarmy lawyer trying to get nothing but net with his empty coffee cup. He ends up missing the waste basket completely. Not that he cares, he's too high on his own supply to even bother to see if the cup went into the can. Even when Susan points out his miss, the well-coiffed litterer ignores her. She's left to pick up his mess.
That is what Susan does. She helps her clients find justice, too often pro bono. She spends her nights clicking through her inbox instead of partaking in pizza making with her sister's family. It's clear she's alone now. There really doesn't seem to be anyone around.
Well, except for Tiffany and that song. Every time she turns on her beatup little orange car it's playing because the cassette tape has been stuck in the player since the '80s. Cook is now worried it'll be stuck in her head forever. “I swear that song is following me now!" she joked when talking to Refinery29.
It wasn't lost on Cook that after making her most famous film, the 1999 teen comedy She's All That, she was also being chased by an ear worm. As Laney Boggs gets her eyebrows tweezed and her ponytail removed, Sixpence None The Richer's folksy ballad "Kiss Me" plays. It's a sign that the artsy girl is coming out of her shell.
In Love, Guaranteed, Tiffany's song plays a similar role. One might go as far as to say the song is another character in the movie. At the very least, it's only one of a few non-instrumental musical cues on the Love, Guaranteed soundtrack. (The other? Cecil's "I Guess Without Fingernails The Hills Become An Obstacle," which plays during Susan's sad montage.)
Tiffany's song is a catchy reminder that Susan is at a crossroads and what she does next will help define the true meaning of "alone" as it pertains to her life. It might also be a sign to buy a new car so she can hear another song for a change. Her car is being "possessed by Tiffany," according to Susan's new client Nick, played by Damon Wayans Jr, but I'd argue Tiffany is a good witch, not a bad one, who is acting as Susan's love guide.
The song leads her to meet cute with Nick who thinks pumpkin spice lattes are a scam. ("No pumpkin in it," he says. "Just pumpkin flavoring.") He also thinks a dating website is swindling him, which is why he's come to see Susan. Just like her, he is alone, but not for lack of trying. He's been on 968 different dates and still, no love found despite the site's thousand date love guarantee. What he's lost is $29.95 a month on a service he thinks is fraudulent. "It's a reckless endangerment of the human heart," he says.
Susan, on the other hand, thinks he has completely lost it after so many breakfast, lunch, and dinner dates. In her eyes, he's an opportunist who just wants the cash and the credit of bringing down Tamara Taylor (Heather Graham), the wellness guru who runs Love Guaranteed.
Perhaps, all of that is true, but he's also been more proactive then her when it comes to his love life. He doesn't want to be alone now and he's doing something about it. Unfortunately, he treats these dates like they're transactions. He hasn't quite learned that there isn't an algorithm for finding true love, it takes time, courage, and a bit of hard work.
Being single doesn't always mean you're alone, but both Susan and Nick are looking for something more. They're both cynical about love, but they aren't unfeeling. They've just put all of their love towards helping other people. After having their hearts broken, they're too afraid to put themselves out there in any real way. That is, until they find one another.
Unfortunately, that connection they have is what could sink the case. Susan is forced to choose between finding true love and winning a million dollar settlement for Nick, who plans to use the money to build a children's wing at the physical therapy where he works.
It's Susan sitting in her car blubbering along to Tiffany's pleas of "Children behave/ That's what they say when we're together " that turns the song into a tragic comedy. "I hate you, Tiffany!" she yells through tears. But we know she doesn't. She's just mad that she's finally found her person and unless she's honest with him the song will take on another less romantic meaning.
Nick also knows that if he doesn't overcome his own fear of being hurt again, he will end up alone. Love is about taking chances. Sure, there is a chance Tiffany could be singing about the pleasures of diving headfirst into eternal love. On the other hand, maybe, it's just about two people having a fling that feels too good not to try.
Either way, the former teen pop star's wise words steer them away from the loneliness they once felt and towards the unknown. "It's not a risk to fall in love," Nick professes to Susan in front of a full court room. "It's a risk not to." Honestly, Tiffany couldn't have said it better herself.