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Down With Love (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Peyton Reed; Music video 'Here’s To Love'; 5 deleted scenes; 4 featurettes: 'Guess my Name' featuring celebrity mystery guest Barbara Novak, Blooper Reel, HBO Special, Down with Love testimonial; 6 documentaries: On Location With Down with Love, Creating The World Of Down with Love, The Costumes Of Down with Love, The Swingin’ Sounds Of Down with Love, Down with Love Up with Tony Randall, Down with Love – Split Decisions; Hair and wardrobe tests; Music promo spot.

Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor pay homage to the romantic comedies of Doris Day and Rick Hudson in a visually sumptuous, but curiously vacant battle of the sexes, which dazzles and disappoints in equal measure.

Down With Love is a curious movie, which works on so many levels without ever really engaging emotionally, rendering it something of a missed opportunity. It is, without doubt, a triumph of style over substance, boosted by the charisma of its stars.

Set in 1960s New York, the plot concerns Zellweger’s feminist writer, Barbara Novak, just as she has arrives in the Big Apple, having penned Down With Love, a book denouncing romance in favour of career goals, which empowers women across the globe.

Initially written off as an elderly spinster by McGregor’s playboy journalist, Catcher Block, the debonair columnist then finds himself exposed as the womaniser he is by the liberated Novak - prompting him to assume a different identity and expose the ‘down with love’ girl for the hopeless romantic he believes she really is.

The ensuing battle of wits is offset against his shy best friend’s attempts to woo and win Novak’s editor, in what provides a truly hilarious sub-plot.

Rammed with double entendres and a nice line in visual humour, Down With Love begins as a sparkling, even spiky, little movie, before losing its fizz somewhere along the way to its feelgood conclusion.

In the principal roles, McGregor and Zellweger look great, despite never really striking the right sort of sparks off each other, partly because they seem sidetracked with trying to nail down someone else’s performance.

Both seem to invest so much time in getting their appearance and ‘swaggers’ correct (in line with the Day/Hudson magic of old) that they almost seem to forget to fall in love - all of which leaves the audience gob-smacked for all the wrong reasons.

The movie looks stunning, and some of the deliberately exaggerated expressions and poses adopted by the principals are a delight. Zellweger, especially, could have come from a bygone era, recapturing the spirit of Day (and even Monroe) with effortless ease.

The support cast, too, seem to be having fun, with Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce, especially, stealing every scene that he’s in, and making audiences pine for him whenever he is not around.

It’s just that by the time the credits roll (and the leads indulge in a well-observed musical number), you’ll probably be scratching your head in bewilderment, wondering why there is such a soppy grin on your face, when you haven’t really been bothered about what’s going on.

Perhaps it’s because they feel so caricatured and exaggerated, that they fail to connect on a human level.

But this shouldn’t detract from an otherwise lively romp through cinematic nostalgia which is certain to be unlike any other rom-com you’ve seen see this year. It may ultimately be a failure, but it’s a glorious one, nonetheless.

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