Down With Love Peyton Reed
Published May 01, 2003Down With Love does its very best to follow its formula of recreating the pink bubblegum fantasies of light, romantic comedy in the vein of Doris Day/Rock Hudson films like Pillow Talk, but all it ends up doing is step in exactly the same well-formed footprints. At no point does it break its own path.
Like all romantic comedies, the key element of the premise is what keeps the leads apart. In this case, Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) is the most notorious playboy in early '60s New York City. He's got the pimped-out bachelor pad, the slick, stylish moves, and the meek best friend (Frasier's David Hyde Pierce). Along comes Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger), a proto-feminist best-selling author of Down With Love, a tome whose self-help philosophy is helping women nationwide break free from the bonds of patriarchal servitude, especially in the area of romance. What greater challenge for Block than to woo the only woman who professes to not need a man? And what greater opportunity for clever bon mots and witty exchanges of balletic banter? Sadly, Down With Love is too busy looking at the scenery to notice many of its actors chewing it.
There are lots of things, at least superficially, that Down With Love gets right. Its set design and costuming come across as period-perfect tone poems of an era that only existed in films like this and perhaps occasionally in Frank Sinatra's Vegas hotel rooms. But what it lacks is a raison d'etre those films were sharp precisely because the strong female leads were actually battling against the stereotypes embodied here by the editorial board of Novak's publishing company.
Instead, we have a film that seems to think that the eerie replica is enough. It isn't satire there's too much evident affection for the whole process for that. It isn't a clever update on its age-old themes it remains too entrenched in its early '60s mode. What we get is a puffy pink dress hanging in a vintage window display. It's lovely, but it's dressing a lifeless mannequin. (Fox)