MovieMonday: Isn’t It Romantic

This movie opens with the Roy Orbison rendition of “Pretty Woman,” the song, while a little girl watches, “Pretty Woman,” the film, on television.

The girl’s mother advises her that the film — a sweet thing about a handsome rich guy who falls in love with a really fun prostitute — is not reality.

“There’s no happy ending for people like us,” says the mother, who disabuses her pudgy daughter of the fantasy that true love comes as easily in life as it does in a Richard Gere/Julia Roberts movie.

Then, 25 years later, we meet the daughter, Natalie (Rebel Wilson), all grown up and living in a dingy outer borough of New York.  Natalie is now an architect assigned to design the parking garage for a larger, glossier project.  In other words, yuck.

Natalie has absorbed her mother’s cynicism, and she says so again and again and again until the viewer thinks, okay, we got the point.  When her good sport of a colleague, Josh (Adam DeVine,) suggests her life might be better if she were “a little more open,” we glimpse the ending to come.

Then something surprising happens and Natalie finds herself in a new reality — a rom-com New York where subway stations are bedecked with flowers, where everyone is nice and where a tall, buff billionaire named Blake (Liam Hemsworth) finds her “beguiling” and pursues her ardently.

This sets up most of the film, which apparently draws on various rom-com tropes — Natalie gets a fancy apartment and great wardrobe, her drug-dealing neighbor becomes her flamboyant gay friend, she becomes a  star at the office while her wimpy work assistant has turned into a snarling professional enemy, and there are luxy parties and so forth.

Natalie is of course confused and suspicious, but things go on and on and on in the fairytale world until she has learned an Important Lesson that she can apply when life returns to normal.

The point of “Isn’t It Romantic” seems to be to make fun of romantic comedy films by making a really, really exaggerated rom-com that lets the audience in on the joke.  It’s possible there is a sub-genre of less over-the-top films like this (“Fifty Shades of Grey,” maybe?) that I have not seen, but except for a few good gags the movie feels overlong even at an economical 86 minutes.

What little I know of Rebel Wilson makes me think she’d be better served if she were more discerning in her choice of scripts.

Alternatives

Either 2017’s  The Big Sick is really, really good, or I just associated it with the happy aura of the time I saw it, on the same weekend as a family wedding.  I think both may be true.

A classic screwball comedy, “Bringing Up Baby” was directed by Howard Hawks and featured Cary Grant as a befuddled scientist and Katharine Hepburn as a wacky heiress with a pet leopard named, yes, Baby.  It was made in 1938 and had stood the test of time when I last saw it around the turn of the millennium.

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