Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Isn't It Romantic ★★★☆☆

It's not unusual for a film to come along once in a while that is determined to shake up the genre by poking fun at its tropes and cliches, Austin Powers, for example, has been held responsible for the tone change of James Bond, making it "impossible for [Bond] to have witty quips after he kills an enemy". Isn't It Romantic, is Rebel Wilson's 2019 vehicle, gently but firmly giving every inch of it to the Rom-Com genre.

Natalie (Wilson) is shown, as a child, to have suffered intense cynicism of romance and romantic comedies drilled into her by her mother (Jennifer Saunders), while watching Pretty Woman. Present day Natalie sets the tone of the film by hammering out a list of unrealistic tropes in rom-coms in general, as a means of accosting her assistant Whitney about her endless watching of the Wedding Singer during work hours. (Which itself would seem like a punishment for a much greater offence). After another age-old Wizard of Oz style trope of waking up in a more colourful world where the rules are different, Natalie finds herself in a 'Rom-Com World' learning about the kind of self-love that it's ok to perform in public. 

Rebel Wilson has a talent for compelling performances in Adam Sandler style films, where one two minute joke is taken to ninety minutes of entertainment, or whatever you might refer to Adam Sandler movies where the word entertainment seems grandiose. Isn't It Romantic is a very simple premise but Rebel's enthusiasm for the role is contagious and I really enjoyed the ride, and while I don't dislike Rom-Com's I would rarely seek one out to watch with friends. Admittedly because I am likely to cry at the most understated happy ending, and all my jock friends would beat me up and call me a dork.

The film is pretty on the nose and doesn't leave much room for subtlety, so much so that Natalie even seems to forget her own rules after a while and gets swept up with the new overly-stylised Rom Com plot in her dream world. There are fewer jokes on the theme than I would've expected, though the ones that are there are entertaining enough, which I feel left too much room to forget you were watching a parody. 

Not a perfect film by any means, and very much a throwaway one in my eyes, but little things like her coming from a fucking 15 rated world to a flipping PG-rated world to discover her own self-belief, were cute. Though it could've fallen into many more traps of becoming what it parodied, the storytelling was as compelling as anything in the genre and left a nice taste of pecan ice-cream flavoured optimism at the end.

David Roberts

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