Sunday 17 March 2019

Movie Review: Isn't It Romantic (2019)

A satirical romantic comedy, Isn't It Romantic tries to poke lame holes at an already self-perforated genre.

In New York City, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) grew up not believing in romance, and is particularly disdainful of the fairytale representations of love in traditional Hollywood romantic comedies. She works as an architect, allows her co-workers to take advantage of her, and is blind to interest from colleague Josh (Adam DeVine). Rich and dishy client Blake (Liam Hemsworth) does not even notice her.

Natalie tangles with a mugger, is knocked out and wakes up in an alternative rom-com reality where the city is pristine, everyone looks beautiful, her apartment is idyllic and Blake is immediately smitten. She plays along and starts a relationship with him, while Josh starts dating model Isabella (Priyanka Chopra) after a meet-cute moment. But Natalie learns that all the fluffy romance is not the answer to her problems.

Making fun of romantic comedies is just too easy, as the genre never represents itself as anything other than modern-day retellings of boy-meets-girl lightweight fairytales with the absolute promise of a happily-ever-after ending. Isn't It Romantic loudly proclaims all the genre's formulaic faults before proceeding to replicate them, as the second half in particular fizzles out into boring predictability.

Natalie's frumpy and imperfect life, seen at the start and end, offers some organic opportunities to celebrate fresh perspectives on modern single living, but the script decides to spend most of its time in the sanitized fantasy of immaculate streetscapes and handsome happy people, and simply does not offer enough of a satirical edge. And so for a long stretch Natalie is stuck in a world overloaded with cliches, as is the film.

Todd Strauss-Schulson directs with little panache, and star Rebel Wilson as Natalie is caught between mocking romance and succumbing to the imperative of finding a happy ending, satisfying no one in the process.

Isn't It Romantic desperately does not want to be what it ultimately is.

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