Down With Love

Peyton Reed

BY Laura FrancisPublished Oct 1, 2003

It's 1962 and Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger), fresh off the bus from Maine, has just sold her first book, Down With Love, a proto-feminist, soon-to-be bestseller that suggests women "be like more like men and have their sex like men do — à la carte." The book's message and its author attract the attention, and derision, of Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), a too suave playboy who's feasted on a veritable platter of women for the better part of a decade. Catcher sets out to humiliate Barbara by getting her to fall in love with him. What he doesn't bargain for is falling into it himself. Director Peyton Reed (Bring It On) has done a masterful job of aesthetically paying homage to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies he is parodying — from Catcher's swinging bachelor pad filled with switches that dim the lights and move beds, to the split-screen sight gags filled with double entendres, everything is drolly pitched. He has even cast Tony Randall in a plum role as the WASP-y publishing scion bent on dethroning Barbara's book from its perch atop the bestseller list. But unlike Far From Heaven, the nudges and winks here quickly become text and not subtext, a choice that relegates its stars to cartoonish parody. Renee Zellweger seems little more than a walking hanger of the Camelot era. When she reveals the big twist at film's end, it no longer matters to us, so exhausted are we from being let in on the joke. Who but a small handful of aficionados of the era are even going to catch all the references and appreciate them? Down With Love has its tongue set so firmly in its cheek that nothing short of surgery will ever dislodge it. But for a film bent on displaying froth, this puppy is chocked full of special features. If you are a film student, there are eight production vignettes, each dedicated to some technical aspect of the film. For my money, the interview with the costume designer was well worth the viewing ("I've been waiting my whole life to do this film!") Also included are an HBO special, a music video, featuring the film's two stars, and a blooper reel that is very funny. Plus: commentary, more. (Fox)

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