Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4
DOWN WITH LOVE, directed by BRING IT ON's Peyton Reed, is such a scrumptious
piece of cinematic fluff that you might be tempted to say that it's sinfully
delicious. But, since it is both spoof of and homage to the innocent Doris
Day and Rock Hudson comedies, the movie is anything but sinful. About as
racy as it ever gets is some side-splitting sexual innuendo and a very
modest amount of closed-mouth kissing.
This wonderfully upbeat and charmingly sweet comedy will have you worrying
in less than a quarter of an hour. Even though you've had a great time up
until then, you will undoubtedly begin to think that this throwback piece
will not be able to move beyond its hilarious appearance and wackily
old-fashioned dialog. It looks to be a one-joke movie that could become
tiresome. The script by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, who also wrote the
upcoming LEGALLY BLONDE 2, manages to avoid the trap of sameness and explode
into new comedic realms. By the end of the story, you will love and care
about its characters, no matter how one-dimensional they might appear.
After proudly proclaiming in type that it is a "CinemaScope Picture," the
movie quickly orients us: "The place -- New York City. The time -- now,
1962." Out of a taxi steps Ren‚e Zellweger in a heavy, pink suit and a big
white hat. Hats feature prominently in the costume design, which deserves
serious Oscar consideration, as do the set decorations. The movie features
pastels aplenty. Zellweger plays Barbara Novak, who is in town to meet her
editor, Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson). Barbara is the author of a shocking
new book called "Down with Love." The male suits in the publisher's
boardroom don't know what to make of Barbara since her book preaches the
joys of meaningless sex rather than love. As she explains, her book
encourages "women to enjoy sex as men do, … la carte."
Barbara's nemesis is a playboy named Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor).
Something of a Hugh Hefner type, he's described as a "Lady's man, man's man
and man about town." He's so suave that he attracts women in droves.
Zellweger, with her vulnerable confidence, and McGregor, with his big
plastic smile, are both great, but the movie's scene stealer is David Hyde
Pierce, who plays Peter MacMannus. Peter is the owner of the male magazine
where Catcher is the main writer. Peter is the anti-Catcher, lacking all of
the dating skills that Catcher makes appear trivially easy. I hope the
Academy members remember Pierce's performance when they think about
supporting actor nominations.
Describing Barbara with disdain as, "a man-hating spinster, a New England
librarian," Catcher initially wants nothing to do with her. But things
change, and Catcher, using an alias, pursues Barbara with abandon so that he
can expose her hypocrisy with another of his brilliant strokes of
investigative reporting. Along the way, the story keeps twisting and
turning. Towards the end, in a long monologue that is shown without
cutaways, Barbara tries to explain the whole convoluted tale. If you've
seen THE MATRIX RELOADED, you'll immediately see the parallels with this
speech and that of the Architect in that film, even if the two movies could
not be more different. They are similar, however, in two other ways. They
open on the same weekend, and both are great.
DOWN WITH LOVE runs 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual humor and dialogue"
and would be acceptable for kids about 11 and up.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes