Entertainment » Movies

Isn't It Romantic

by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 12, 2019
'Isn't It Romantic'
'Isn't It Romantic'  

The romantic comedy has become the ugly stepchild of film genres. Sure, they act as brain candy; light, fizzy, and if you have too many of them, they will rot your brain -- not to mention warping your view on relationships and love. Perhaps their worst sin is that as enjoyable as some of them are, there hasn't been much evolution over the past 30 years. Everyone knows the cliches and tropes that have long been established for the pillars of the genre. The new film "Isn't It Romantic" attempts to mock the paint-by-numbers formula while also creating a worthy new romantic comedy.

Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is an architect who uses her job as a way to avoid having to actually live her life. She's oblivious to her co-worker's affection, even when it's pointed out to her by her rom-com-loving assistant, and she doesn't have any real friends. However, after getting mugged on the New York City subway and hitting her head, she wakes up in the one thing she hates: A romantic comedy. Everyone she knows is there, gussied up and turned into a genre stereotype. It isn't long until she realizes that if she wants to get back to her regular life, she has to embrace the rules to play along and let love guide the way.

Unlike director Todd Strauss-Schulson's previous movie (the underrated "The Final Girls," which similarly deconstructs the horror genre), "Isn't It Romantic" is much more cynical towards its brethren. Rather than being a love letter to romantic comedies, or even winkingly self-aware, the film skewers them a little too mercilessly. There's plenty to poke fun at with these films, but the tone feels slightly hostile based on the main character's cynicism. During the opening minutes, a pint-sized Natalie, watching "Pretty Woman," is told by her mother that things like that don't happen to girls like them. Because of that, apparently, Natalie is turned off of romantic comedies, and even romance, forever. She's grown into an adult that allows herself to be a doormat to everyone, lacking any kind of self-worth or worthy of being loved.

Of the film's trio of screenwriters, both Dana Fox ("What Happens In Vegas" and "The Wedding Date") and Katie Silberman ("Set It Up") are veterans of the genre. Yet, in the process of trying to make fun of other romantic comedies, they forget to create any real stakes for their characters. The romantic comedy world never feels real as they play with time and jump cuts in an effort to garner laughs. Nothing that Natalie does in the romantic comedy world has any major consequences and with characters that might as well be made out of cardboard, it's hard to get invested.

The film's one asset - its cast - is also a double-edged sword. Certain expectations come with a cast like the one that has been assembled here, and "Isn't It Romantic" just can't live up to them. The actors are more than game to try to make the film work, but many of the jokes just don't land. Wilson, moving into leading lady territory, offers some laughs, but doesn't stretch out of her comfort zone. However, Priyanka Chopra, as a yoga ambassador that Natalie is competing against for a happily ever after, comes across the best. Despite being a veteran to international audiences, she's still relatively new to American audiences after TV's "Quantico" and the ill-fated "Baywatch" movie, where she was also a bright spot.

"Isn't It Romantic" had the premise that should have been a slam dunk, but even a game cast can't save its squandered potential. Despite the writers' previous experience, it feels like they dislike the genre and aren't trying to send it up, but instead, tear it down.

The audience for "Isn't It Romantic" is mostly going to be made up of romantic comedy lovers, so approaching the material from such a negative point of view makes you question who the intended audience actually is supposed to be. The film really isn't that romantic, and it's not all that funny. So, if you are looking for a date movie, really this "Isn't it."

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