You don’t have to look much further than the phrase rom-com” (like chick-lit) to know that. The film mocks every cliché of the romcom while simultaneously delivering a flawless execution of the genre, something that’s both brilliant and entertaining.
isn't it ironic – ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ Review Variety
Isn’t It Romantic? In truth, though, Isn’t It Romantic? is, in almost all respects, exactly like other rom-coms, down to the sugar-coated morals it wants to feed you. It’s just one that loudly calls attention to the tropes it’s using before using them, and then pats itself on the back for turning them on their heads – never mind that most of those “subversions” have themselves been rom-com staples for years.
The film’s other revelation is Brandon Scott Jones, as Natalie’s rom-com world gay best friend Donnie, who, as Natalie points out, is likely setting gay rights back 100 years” with his checklist of gay-man-from-the-90s stereotypes. Jones’ depiction of Donnie is light-hearted, but casual jokes about his one-dimensional nature – he’s happy to drop her off on his way to no plans whatsoever” – are good, if gentle, reminders that rom-coms have largely failed the LGBT population by relegating them to characters who exist to serve the plot.
At some point in all that meta mess, the movie also decides it’s going to pivot to a self-empowerment message, giving you whiplash, it comes out of nowhere so fast. The film’s emotional climax now comes when, I kid you not, Wilson’s character compares her self-worth to a parking garage.
Natalie: Okay, yeah, I’ll never look like her. But I’m smart and kind and funny, and I’m passionate about work, and I’m really weirdly good at karaoke. Josh, you should choose me, you should love me. Because I love… I love… I love me. Holy crap! I love me! Oh, my God, this whole time, I thought I had to get somebody else to fall in love with me, but I had to love me.
Isn’t It Romantic found itself mired in controversy months before its release, with Wilson mistakenly claiming she was the first plus-size star of a romantic comedy, erasing the accomplishments of Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique, and then blocking black people who criticized her on Twitter. The actual movie does little to earn back any good will after that fiasco.
Natalie wakes up in the real world, but with new self-confidence, which she uses to successfully propose an idea to Blake. After reuniting with Josh, she learns that he has not been staring at the model, but at Natalie’s reflection, and the two begin a relationship. As Natalie prepares to head home, Whitney tells her that despite her dislike for romantic comedies, everything she just experienced has been comparable to one. Breaking the fourth wall , Natalie realizes that she has been in a romantic comedy the entire time and she and the rest of the cast engage in a rendition of ” Express Yourself “.
Natalie’s Mom: You see, Natalie, love’s not a fairy tale. There’s no happy endings. I’ll not try to convince you this film has a life-changing message of empowerment but it sort of does in a fun and flashy way. A woman discovers she’s the leading lady in a real-life romantic comedy in an alternate universe.
Natalie, when she’s not too busy being exasperated by the rosy-hued events taking place around her, is smitten with Blake’s good looks and lavish lifestyle. But she continues to feel drawn to Josh, despite the fact that she has turned down dates with him in the past and has managed to blind herself to the fact, quite apparent to the audience from the outset, that he has long been her secret admirer.
Leah Katznelson’s costuming, which is also pitch-perfectly attuned to the rom-com world, consists of some very finely tailored garments to glamorously flatter Wilson. But there’s also a missed opportunity there for some visual gags, which I don’t blame on either Seymour or Katznelson but rather on director Strauss-Schulson (The Final Girls”), who’s playing it safe, seemingly trying not to alienate the hardcore rom-com fans. David Wain’s They Came Together” already proved you can have a sweet romance with extremely silly comedy, though.
Natalie is introduced as a young girl glued to the television in a run-down apartment where her mother is off to the side making an ice cream and boxed wine float. On the screen is a young Julia Roberts in a bubble bath in Pretty Woman.” Natalie’s mother tells her not to expect anything like that out of life. They don’t and never will look like Roberts and so the fairy tale is out of the question. Pretty harsh, but her mom is right, Pretty Woman,” unlike so many great romantic comedies, is actually evil.
Like his brother Chris’s performance in Ghostbusters, Liam Hemsworth proves he’s not afraid to find the humor in downright silliness. The entire core cast is excellent. Wilson is grounded but still delivers her one-liners with zing, Betty Gilpin as Natalie’s office friend is distinctly lovable, and Devine is the most charming he’s ever been—and I say this as a lifelong Adam Devine skeptic. Also perfectly cast: Priyanka Chopra as the gorgeous yoga ambassador” who oscillates between benign love interest and classic mean girl.
And when Natalie wakes up, she realizes she’s been transported into her nightmare: a real-life romantic comedy. The flowers are bright, New York constantly smells like lavender, and guys see her. Like, they actually recognize she exists.
Isn’t It Romantic has plenty of fun toying with various familiar elements and sensibilities, but its deconstructions also feel like resurrections. There’s something comforting about such banalities, especially in an age when rom-coms aren’t crowding our screens anymore, and the love the movie has for its target can be seen in the confidence with which director Todd Strauss-Schulson deploys the clichés: the impromptu sing-alongs (that turn into full-on musical numbers) and the limo rides and the trips to the Hamptons. Like a gorgeous suitor about whom we may still have lingering doubts, the film wants to win us over. And while Isn’t It Romantic is unlikely to bring such movies back from the dead, in its have-it-both-ways attempt to simultaneously undermine and indulge the romantic comedy ethos, it reminds us of why they existed in the first place.
Liam Hemsworth co-stars in a role that takes the mickey out of his brother Chris’s typical casting as the hot guy”, while Adam Devine is the best friend who falls in love with a yoga ambassador (Priyanka Chopra), just as Wilson discovers her own true feelings for him.
The film opens in the “real” version of New York, so gloriously gross and sticky that it made this former New Yorker feel positively homesick. After Natalie hits her head, however, she enters a candy-colored version of the city littered with cupcake shops and bridal stores, and populated by pretty people in flattering clothes.
After Amy Schumer’s woman-hits-her-head-and-believes-she’s-beautiful self-empowerment” narrative in I Feel Pretty,” there really couldn’t have been a better time for a parodical version of the story. There’s also the fact that rom-coms have been in high demand as of late, which makes a cautionary reminder of the genre’s shortcomings very pertinent. Here, Australian comic actor Rebel Wilson plays Natalie, a New York architect whose main job is getting coffee, designing parking garages, and generally getting grief from her boss and colleagues. Architect” is absolutely the kind of job a character in a rom-com would have, and it would be the dummy version that doesn’t take into account that most architects are just doing the grunt work of building. Natalie’s the slightly more realistic version, albeit apparently living in a time where architects are still hand-drafting construction plans.
As an adult in New York City, Natalie lives in an insanely tiny apartment and has to trudge to an office where she gets zero respect from everyone, except for her best friend Josh (Adam Devine), who’s secretly in love with her. Natalie hopelessly pines for a handsome billionaire client named Blake (Liam Hemsworth), who utterly disregards her and treats her like the office coffee girl.
The film’s script, from Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox (who previously co-wrote the underseen Wilson-starring charmer How to Be Single”), and Katie Silberman (the brains behind Netflix hit Set It Up”), can’t help but lean into the genre’s tropes when it suits the narrative. Early on, Natalie unpacks nearly every hallmark of the rom-com to her movie-loving assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin, always a welcome presence) and her suspiciously starry-eyed best pal Josh (Adam Devine), itself a winky element of the genre. Like plenty of movie heroines before her, Natalie is trapped in a colorless world of her own making, unable to see the fairy tale that might actually be written for her.
Isn’t It Romantic” is the second comedy in less than a week, after What Men Want,” in which a woman gains the power to improve her life following a concussion. BAD ROMANCE Tossed into the alternate reality of rom-coms, Wilson is eager for escape in Strauss-Schulson’s smart comedy.
A scene-stealer no more, Wilson (Bridesmaids,” Pitch Perfect”) plays Natalie, a woman who hit her head and wakes up in the middle of a cheesy rom-com. Not afraid to use her full-figured body, there’s neither a pratfall nor inappropriate quip Wilson won’t go for. If you’re a fan (I am), then you’ll dig this rom-com spoof shepherded by director Todd Strauss-Schulson, who executes the script’s high-concept premise as if a Saturday Night Live” skit got to spread its wings. And, at only 88 minutes, it never wears out its welcome.
Rebel Wilson stars as Natalie, an architect living in the decidedly unglamorous real-world of New York City who’s tasked with designing a parking garage for an obnoxious wealthy hotelier (Liam Hemsworth) but is also constantly mistaken for the person who gets coffee.
Natalie is forthright, genuine, a thoughtful, reliable person who cares about her work, her loved ones. She’s not mocked for her rare-in-movies body type (except for joke about her being built like a “truck”). Blake is a stereotype inserted into the action to make points about typical romcom leads and standards of masculinity. Donny is also a stereotype – in this case, a prancing gay man – but his character is also used to make point about how gay men are often portrayed in romantic comedies.
Even when done well, the romantic comedy is easy to pick on. They’re so earnest and full of clichés and unrealistic fairy tale standards. Intelligent women have been taught that there should be a healthy serving of self-hatred with whatever enjoyment you might glean from a well-done makeover montage. You don’t have to look much further than the phrase rom-com” (like chick-lit) to know that. The dismissive term seems to have been thrown at the genre to take it and its fans down a few pegs, as if to say, no no, silly girl, that’s not cinema or literature or even art.
It’s as high a high concept as you can imagine: A woman who hates romantic comedies finds herself stuck inside one. You could give the entire elevator pitch in the time it takes to press the button for the floor you want. But the brassy Aussie Rebel Wilson , consistently charming and game as always for everything that comes her way, finds subtlety and sweetness within this broad premise with her trademark sly, deadpan delivery. She’s raunchy but tender and easy to root for—so much so, that you’ll wish Isn’t It Romantic” had taken even more chances and allowed her the opportunity to do the same.
Then, boom, everything changes. While chasing a mugger in the subway, Natalie smashes into a pole. Newly concussed, she wakes up in a New York with a glossy PG-13 filter on it. Cinematographer Simon Duggan’s camera shoots everything pastel-bright like a Martha Stewart catalogue, notably Natalie’s transformed apartment which is now magazine-spread ready. When Natalie runs into Blake again, he’s super polite, sporting an Aussie accent (both leads are real-life Australians) and calling her beguiling” like a lovestruck Romeo. (Somewhere along the line, The Hunger Games hunk has found a light-comic touch that truly is beguiling.) Yes, the switcheroo gimmick in the script by Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman bears more than a passing resemblance to last year’s Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty. Remarkably, the actors and director Todd Strauss-Schulson (The Final Girls) power on like the conked-head gimmick is a completely new invention.
Manhattan becomes a candy-colored wonderland with cupcake shops on every corner. The sexy billionaire (Liam Hemsworth) who was a jerk to Natalie IRL is now madly in love with her. Her apartment is pastel and palatial. Her dorky secret crush (Adam Devine) is suddenly dating a swimsuit model (Priyanka Chopra). And, because Natalie’s life is now rated PG-13, she can’t even properly express her feelings about the situation.
Overall, Isn’t It Romantic is perfect for rom-com lovers, especially ones who grew up with the classics. It was a bold move to release the film the day before Valentine’s Day, but it will be just as good for those who are single or groups of friends, and regular movie lovers will get a kick out of it as well.
Wilson, confident and vibrant, is a terrific romantic-comedy hero: While Natalie suffers from a few garden-variety insecurities, she’s not cutting herself down every second. (The movie doesn’t rely on a litany of those self-pitying Look at how awkward and unattractive I am!” gags—alleged teaching moments that I’ve always found to be more anti-woman than they are bolstering.) Natalie is high enough on the career ladder to have her own assistant, Whitney (the marvelous Betty Gilpin), who spends most of the workday streaming, and swooning over, 1980s- and ‘90s-era romantic comedies. Natalie, all business, lectures her not for watching movies on the job but for buying into the unfulfillable fantasies they present. (It’s clear she has watched them all, repeatedly.) Then, after fending off an old-school New York purse snatcher, Natalie slams into a subway station support beam—and wakes up in her own version of the very comedies she’d been deriding earlier that day.
Age Appropriate For: 13+. The satirical ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ points out the absurdity of the romantic comedy genre while also participating in some of the formula’s fun elements, like song-and-dance numbers, satisfying romances, and lush costumes. The movie presents clichés—the hunky love interest, the gay best friend, the female competition at work—but then subverts them, so by the end of the film, the positive messages about friendship, loving oneself, and being confident shine through. Characters kiss, sex is implied, a male character is shown in a towel, and characters discuss the size of another’s genitalia; cursing is common, including one unbleeped use of the f-word and various unbleeped uses; and a character takes shots before performing at karaoke.