The romantic comedy has been in a state of moderate crisis for the better part of a decade. After spending the early aughts making easy money with pairings of largely interchangeable stars—Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Katherine Heigl, Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Lopez … —rom-coms saw their box-office wave dry up abruptly around 2012. As the producer Lynda Obst, a doyenne of the genre, told Vulture that year, “It is the hardest time of my 30 years in the business.”
Some rom-coms began experimenting with out-there premises (the “She’s a woman, he’s a zombie” setup of Warm Bodies), while others presented themselves as another genre altogether (Silver Linings Playbook, for instance, or Moonrise Kingdom). Lately, many of the more successful entrants in the genre have been films that de-emphasized Hollywood movie stars and featured racially diverse casts (The Big Sick, Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). But I think it’s safe to say that we are at a moment when no one has a particularly good sense of precisely where the rom-com is headed.
Into this cinematic breach steps Isn’t It Romantic, a would-be high-concept Rebel Wilson film that intends to revivify the romantic comedy by satirizing it. I am sorry (though unsurprised) to report that it does not succeed.
The movie opens to the song “Oh, Pretty Woman” and, moments later, to the movie Pretty Woman, which a slightly chubby Australian girl named Natalie is watching on TV. Her mother (a vastly underutilized Jennifer Saunders) warns the blissed-out child to “forget about love.” No one will ever make movies about “girls like us,” she explains, adding, “Someone might marry you for a visa, but that’s about it.”
Flash forward, and the now grown Natalie (Wilson) is an architect at a Manhattan firm. Sadly, her mother’s warnings about how no one will be interested in her appear to have come true, both romantically and professionally. Despite her career success, everyone in the office treats Natalie like a coffee girl. Even her best friend, Josh (Adam DeVine, Wilson’s co-star and eventual squeeze in the Pitch Perfect movies), seems to spend his days looking out the window at a billboard of a bathing-suited supermodel. Gone are the romantic fantasies of Natalie’s girlhood. She even berates her assistant, Whitney (Betty Gilpin), for enjoying rom-coms, and proceeds to enumerate all the tedious tropes thereof: the adorably clumsy lead, …
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Isn’t It Romantic Fails as Both Rom-Com and Satire” >The Atlantic – Culture