‘Isn’t It Romantic’ cleverly sends up romantic comedy cliches

by Christian Ramos on February 13, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up] 

There are a lot of movie choices to watch for Valentine’s Day this year at the theaters and for the first time in what seems like a while, there’s actually a decent romantic comedy out there that plays on the cliches of every single rom-com that ever existed.

This movie is Isn’t It Romantic (directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson) and stars in her first leading role Rebel Wilson as Natalie, a woman who believes the rom-coms she sees on TV are nothing more than hopeless fantasies until an incident causes her to wake up in her own romantic comedy. Surprisingly, this movie offers a huge variety of laughs, understanding right off the bat it shouldn’t take itself seriously as a rom-com uses the typical plot lines to improve the romantic comedy genre, which seems lately to have slowly started disappearing into the world of quirky indie comedies.

This back-to-basics rom-com finds Natalie, an architect being punished by her job. A soon-to-be-new client Blake (Liam Hemsworth) thinks she’s a coffee girl, and other co-workers pay no attention to her except her two friends – the charismatic Josh (Adam DeVine) and Whitney (Betty Gilpin), who watches movies more than she works. One day on the subway, she’s mugged by a man and as she flees, runs into a pillar knocking her unconscious. She awakens to find not only do men now see her as an object of beauty and perfection, but her version of New York City has turned into a cute romantic (and PG-13) comedy filled with flowers, bakeries and song and dance moments a la La La Land.

Blake, who was once standoffish, now sees her as a woman he’d like to be with. Her grungy apartment has turned into a dream home including a new gay best friend Donny (Brandon Scott Jones). Her job has become a more fancy and up-to-date locale and suddenly she’s respected around the place, and for her own sanity she still has Josh as her one normalcy. Josh however, meets Isabella (Priyanka Chopra) whom he immediately takes a fancy too. From there Natalie and Blake spend their time together and like any romantic comedy, inner monologues, makeover montages and song and dance numbers ensue as Natalie tries to understand her new life and what love is really all about.

I’ve said it many times but I’m a sucker for rom-coms. While watching this the only thing that popped up was “this is what I Feel Pretty wanted to be.” Natalie really doesn’t care about how she looks physically and that issue is never addressed. There’s one perk: instead of spending however long on image issues, there’s more time to be focused on more things about self-love in terms of relationships to others. Second, despite the film using the cliches of rom-coms, there’s a few things that go against the norm.

There’s a big moment at the end that’s a bit spoiler-like to mention, but one of these against the grain moments is the gay character (that Natalie knows is pretty much an awful stereotype), gets his own moment to tell his story and why he is the way he is romantically. In her boring normal life this was one of her complains that the gay character doesn’t get a background, but in her new life, they do.

The only real complaint I had with the movie was the run time. Under an hour and a half, it’s a bit too short. There’s a lot of moments that cut too fast so you don’t get a good rhythm to the scenes. Also because of the shorter run time, a lot of characters aren’t fleshed out enough. Blake and Isabella are really both one-dimensional characters who offer no real qualities to Natalie, and just serve as really stationary background characters.

Still, Isn’t It Romantic is without a doubt one of the better romantic comedies in this decade. It is a genre that doesn’t produce many films these days and if it does, they’re not the typical actual “laugh out loud” that this movie has to offer. The idea to take the cliches of the genre, put them all together, and make the character understand that her life is a movie is creative and that meta quality lifts it up. It also offers fantasy in the real world, and who doesn’t long for that?

Christian Ramos is a classic film fan, having had the dream to host Turner Classic Movies for years now. He also has a large amount of Oscar trivia in his head, remembers dressing as Groucho Marx one Halloween, and cherishes the moment Julianne Moore liked his tweet.


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