Monday, 16 March 2009

Movie Review - Down With Love

Often when I’ve looked forward to a film for so long and believed it would be very good, I end up disappointed with it when I do finally see it. “Men in Black” was one such film – although it was good and I enjoyed it, overall it failed to live up to my expectations.

My expectations for “Down With Love” were extremely high. And, in every way, they were surpassed.

The Story

Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) is the author of the eponymous book, a book that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society as women learn to distance themselves from love (and thus, obviously, men) and become successful in the work environment. Her Editor Vicky ( ) gets Peter (David Hyde Pierce), owner of popular men’s magazine Know to arrange for his star writer, the oddly named Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) “Woman’s Man, Man’s Man, Man About Town”, to do a cover story on the book. Catcher, however, is less than enthusiastic, and keeps getting “distracted”…

That’s as much of the plot as you’re going to get from me, I’m afraid. It’s just too good to spoil any of it for you. It all rolls along at a cracking pace, and there is an absolutely inspired plot twist near the end – I don’t think anyone would see it coming.


The Cast

Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Little Voice) has matured into one of the best actors out there, and Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary) into one of the best actresses. Which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a pretty good start. They excel themselves in this film, with deliciously over-the-top performances and brilliant comic timing. There is also real chemistry between them, which adds an extra zing to the proceedings. There are a couple of songs, giving McGregor a chance to demonstrate his pleasant singing voice again. I couldn’t work out whether Zellweger was actually singing or just lip-synching – my money’s on the latter, but only just.

David Hyde Pierce (Niles in Frasier) is just wonderful. He’s extremely funny, playing an admittedly similar role to Niles but not so much so that you feel he’s actually reprising that role. He is just superb. Sarah Paulson is an actress I don’t remember seeing before but she does very well – the only complaint I have of her is that she manages to look even more gorgeous than Renee – surely that should be illegal?!?!?

The peripheral characters are great too, with Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager) doing very well in her “a bit more than a bit” part. I also think I spotted Dukes of Hazard’s Boss Hogg in there somewhere!


Laugh?

This film should come with a government health warning – “too much laughing may induce a hernia”. It’s extremely funny and very sassy at the same time. It filmed in a completely over-the-top style, reminiscent of many the 60’s films in which period it is set. It’s the best kitsch since Moulin Rouge, and is in fact even better than that.

There’s some real tongue-twisting dialogue which even Cary Grant at his best would have been proud of, and which both McGregor and Zellweger carry out superbly. (I do wonder how many takes it took them, though!). The situation comedy is spot on, the odd piece of slapstick works well. The humour runs throughout the film and never gives you a chance to catch your breath.

The film is rated (in the UK, anyway) 12A – which is probably about right. There’s a lot of innuendo but other than that no violence, sex, nudity, or bad language to speak of.


Summary

Just about everything in this film is perfect – casting, performances, humour, and best of all the plot hasn’t been sacrificed – it’s clever and inventive, and occasionally surprising. The plot is very similar to “How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days”. That was a decent film, but this is infinitely better, largely due to a superior cast – especially the lead pair and of course David Hyde Pierce. The writing is also of a higher quality.

The special effects that are here are pretty good. McGregor’s “Batchelor Pad” is a work if pure genius – full of “every type of gadget for ensnaring women”.

Is there anything bad about the film?

Unless you are likely to be very offended by the innuendo, no. It’s a great romantic comedy, but the sort that people who are not fans of the genre will enjoy just as much.


Links

And so it came to pass that Down With Love joined the ranks of romantic comedies I’ve rated as Excellent. Here are the others:

Cutting Edge - Moira Kelly and D B Sweenys mutual dislike is put to one side as they follow their dream of Olympic Gold …

Never Been Kissed - Drew Barrymore and David Arquette in a comedy about a reporter infiltrating a school to get a story, and reliving her childhood nightmare…

French Kiss - Kevin Kline with a surprisingly convincing French accent woos unhappy, flight-phobic Meg Ryan

Two Weeks Notice - Hugh Grant employs Sandra Bullock and gets a lot more than he bargained for…

About a Boy - Hugh Grant again, one of the best British comedies of all time. A lonely child and an eternal bachelor form an unlikely friendship…

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