‘I’ ON CULTURE
I was not certain I wanted to see Isn’t It Romantic since it is another take-off on the unfortunately very limited breed of romantic comedies. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a fun, often daffy look at the genre with great goodwill and a real sense of fun.
Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is an architect from Australia now living in a dingy New York City apartment with a dog who mostly ignores her attentions. She is treated shamefully at work, where we see fellow workers taking advantage of her, having her do their chores. When sexy billionaire Blake (Liam Hemsworth) comes to the office for her presentation, he sends her off to get coffee for everyone, which she does, although she was supposed to give a presentation. Her only friends are her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) who watches movies on her computer all day and Josh (Adam DeVine), a quiet guy who she sees constantly eyeing the glamour girl on the billboard outside her window. Things are so down she remembers her mother’s words to her while watching Pretty Woman: “If they made a movie of your life, they’d have to sprinkle Prozac on the popcorn to get people to watch.”
Then she gets mugged and hits her head. When she wakes, she finds herself in the middle of a romantic comedy. Her doctor looks like he should be on Grey’s Anatomy and she gets slightly bumped by Blake’s limo, and he turns out now to be Australian and beguiled by her. She knows things are crazy when after his limo takes her home to a block where all the discount stores have been replaced by bridal shops and cupcake sellers, she sniffs the air and says, “New York doesn’t smell like sh*t anymore!” Her tiny apartment is now huge with designer furniture, a closet full of shoes all her size and her dog even begins to like her. The sleazebag living next door (Brandon Scott Jones) is suddenly her gay best friend. At work, everyone bows and scrapes, except her former assistant, who is now a villainess. Blake keeps chasing her, but every time they grab each other, the scene turns back to her waiting for him to get out of the shower. After all, they never show sex in these films. Her best friend does the Heimlich maneuver on the gorgeous model Isabella (Priyanka Chopra), whose picture he stares at all day, and they get together. In the end, well, you all have seen the movies.
Making fun of rom-coms is not all that hard. But what director Todd Strauss-Schulson and the writers have done is having the protagonist fully aware that she is in one of them, so much so that she tries to get out, even though reality was not as much fun. There are constant references to rom-com traditions, including people breaking into song and dance and a group of great reminders of Pretty Woman. That just made the movie all the better. It made certain we knew it was in on the joke. And it was very funny. Even the requisite music numbers are handled well, managing to be really good while also being funny.
The cast was great. Wilson is a talented comic actress. Her size adds to the comedy, but she makes it easy for us to believe that she is desirable, even while tossing fat jokes. She can play broad comedy and still show vulnerability. DeVine is very funny; the two have worked together well since Pitch Perfect. He manages to be charming and goofy, able to smoothly transition between Wilson and Chopra. Chopra is a lot of fun in what could have been a stuffy role. Hemsworth is great at spoofing himself. I liked Gilpin a lot; she was a great support mechanism. Jones steals most of his scenes going over the top in his gay incarnation, while giving Natalie great advice. There is even a riff on not basing things on stereotypes, which works well.
I don’t know why romantic comedies are almost dead. Most of us dream of love. As someone who days ago celebrated a major anniversary with the love of my life, who even my mother said was too good for me, I am all in favor of it.
If you like love and laughs, see this film.