Isn’t It Romantic is the ultimate romantic comedy for people who both love and hate rom-coms. If you love them it is a celebration of cinematic romance. If you hate them, this movie mocks the maudlin mercilessly.
Watching Pretty Woman on TV, young Natalie (Rebel Wilson)’s mom (Jennifer Saunders) tells her not to believe in romantic fairy tale movies because “they don’t make movies about women like us.” Well, here’s one.
Mom was right though. It’s better to grow up an independent woman than wait for a man to complete you. By the present day, Natalie is critical of rom-com cliches like a man makes a woman happy, every woman is clumsy, professional women are made rivals, there’s always a gay best friend and slow motion running.
Natalie is right too. These are harmful fantasies that at best negate women’s value and at worst promote toxic masculinity. Yet you can see Natalie does have walls up of brashness and sarcasm to protect herself, which keep her from connecting with sincere suitors.
She’s also the type of woman who complains she never gets asked out. She does, but she says no and criticizes activities like afterwork drinks and karaoke. That is what real life dating looks like, not elaborate movie dates. Hopefully Isn’t It Romantic can show young people that getting asked out may look mundane, but it’s still fun.
When Natalie hits her head, she wakes up in the middle of one of those schmaltzy rom-coms. You can recognize it by the way too fancy ER room, the idealized New York City and her apartment is now luxurious.
This might seem like the Last Action Hero of rom-coms (which would be a compliment because Last Action Hero is awesome), but that was a kid who loved action movies. Natalie hates rom-coms so she wants out.
There is a Last Action Heroy bit about being stuck in a PG-13 world, but Isn’t It Romantic solves it in a more modern way. It’s true, modern movies tend to hint at the language they’re not allowed to use and have it both ways where ‘90s PG-13 movies were hamstrung.
So Natalie goes through the motions just to reach the end, not because she wants to live the fantasy. All along the way she calls out the trite cliches of the genre, making them the greatest examples of those cliches ever.
Blake (Liam Hemsworth), who in real life was a sexist A-hole, is now prince charming. Meanwhile her actual friend from work Josh (Adam Devine) meet cutes Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), a yoga ambassador/swimsuit model, as one does.
Natalie knows that Blake’s silly romantic gestures are nonsense but since she knows the genre, she can work them (except for one cliche she flat out nixes, rightfully so). Hemsworth gets to be a magnificent goof, prancing around in the background on business calls.
It works because Natalie doesn’t want either version of Blake. It’s funny because she’s not into any of the romantic gestures. Maybe the body, but even that she knows is just for her hedonistic pleasure.
You can surely tell where this is going from the character descriptions, because Natalie sure can. The thing is there are so many subgenres of rom-com, Natalie has to make it through all of them.
The pure conviction of every rom-com cliche is endearing. No matter how big of a stretch it is to work it into the story, they commit. Frankly, the bigger the stretch, the funnier it is.
There’s not a song in the movie from this millennium. Well, there’s one that squeaks by from 2002 but it’s so overplayed from them it still fits the ‘80s/90s vibe.
Isn’t It Romantic is genetically engineered to be the perfect role for Rebel Wilson. She gets to be sarcastic, empowered, physical and funny.
Devine is the most endearing he’s ever been too. He still gets to be goofy, but this movie finally allows him to mix that with sincerity.
There’s only one movie cliche that let me down. They eat Chinese food out of the wrong takeout containers.
Every movie has the white boxes with metal wire handles and everyone eats right out of the container with chopsticks even though no Chinese restaurant still uses them. That was one cliche they couldn’t fit in. And no one sings into a hairbrush, but I hate that one too.
Hopefully, Isn’t It Romantic can start a new rom-com subgenre where women can be independent and empowered when it comes to love. You’ll have a big smile on your face the whole movie.
Isn’t It Romantic opens Wednesday, February 13 just in time for Valentine’s Day dates!