ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? (2019)
Starring Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones, Tom Ellis, Jay Oakerson, Rao Rampilla, Marcus Choi, Hugh Sheridan, Luciano Acuna Jr., Ray Anthony Thomas, Zach Cherry, Sandy Honig, Rosemary Howard, Ron Nakahara, Alexandra Kis and Jennifer Saunders.
Screenplay by Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, Katie Silberman.
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson.
Distributed by Warner Brothers. 89 minutes. Rated PG-13.
How is this for a post-modern meta high concept: a cynical woman who hates romantic comedies finds herself trapped in one?
It’s a cute and clever idea that sometimes works in Isn’t It Romantic, though eventually the film seems to be just trying too hard.
Rebel Wilson plays Natalie, a shy, hard-working and slightly big Australian woman transplanted to New York. A flashback shows her mother (Jennifer Saunders of Absolutely Fabulous) explaining to her young daughter that romantic comedies are not meant for less attractive women like them.
Fast forward 25 years, Natalie is working a dead-end job in an architectural firm where she is barely noticed, has a tiny apartment on a grimy New York block, few friends, a surly gay drug dealer next door, a misbehaving dog and no romantic prospects, except for the cute guy at work that she has totally friend-zoned (played by Adam Devine, Wilson’s Pitch Perfect boyfriend).
Going home on the subway, Natalie decides to take a chance on love and exits the train with a cute guy who gestured to her from the next car. Instead of trying to pick her up, he tries to steal her purse. While fighting him off (pretty successfully, actually), Natalie runs away, straight into a metal beam.
When she wakes up in the hospital, she quickly finds that she is in an odd alternative world. New York smells like lavender. Every guy notices her. She has musical cues everywhere she goes. She has become “cutely” clumsy. Her neighborhood has become quaint. Her apartment has become huge and decorated like something out of Williams Sonoma. Her dog is groomed and well-behaved. Her gay neighbor is now her exaggeratedly effeminate bestie. She is on the fast track at work. Her one female friend at work is now her mortal enemy. The standoffish hot customer for the firm (Luke Hemsworth) is now totally into her. And her friend-zoned co-worker is now dating a hot “Yoga ambassador” and underwear model (Priyanka Chopra).
Despite the fact that most people would love this strange new world, cynical Natalie is miserable, trying desperately to get back to her old normal.
It is the second rom com in two weeks about a woman whose life and love life are thrown into turnaround after her world fundamentally changes following bonking her head. The recent remake What Men Want also had a concussion as a major plot point in changing a cynic into someone who opens herself up to love.
Isn’t It Romantic may have stolen its title from an old Rodgers and Hart great-American-songbook standard, but there is nothing stuffy or old-fashioned about the film. And, oddly, another fairly recent movie – last year – with a very similar storyline (including yet another concussed heroine) was also named after a classic show tune: I Feel Pretty.
It appears in the movies that a lot of women are finding love through head trauma. What does that say about women? Or men for that matter?
Does Isn’t It Romantic work? Much of the time, though there are parts that just land with a thud – a sudden busily-choreographed flash-mob cast performance of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” comes immediately to mind. Otherwise it is often smart and funny and winkingly aware of the clichés it is aiming to deconstruct, at the same time luxuriating in them a bit.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 15, 2019.