Monday, December 10, 2007

Down With Love

I’m not generally a fan of romances. Part of it is the fact that they generally rely on idiotic plot contrivances without any occasional explosions or brutal murders to keep my interest up, and part of it is that I’m just so bad at keeping anything vaguely resembling a relationship going that I’m left incredibly embittered towards anyone that actually has romance in their lives. With that in mind, it’s really to this film’s credit that I wound up liking it quite a bit.

The film hearkens back to Hollywood’s old Doris Day-Rock Hudson battle of the sexes movies, and stars Renee Zellweger as a young woman in 1962 who’s just written a book on empowering women by rejecting love and behaving more like men, and Ewan McGregor as a famous womanizing journalist determined to bring her down. It exists in one of those delightfully elastic universes where someone can write a book and the entire nation is instantly turned on its head, and where everyone is constantly scheming and permanently ready to throw out a clever retort, and where it’s only natural for a magazine writer to be a major celebrity who rides a helicopter to work.

Of course, romances always have to turn up the contrivances and the false conflicts in the final act, and one of the great successes of this film is how it turns that genre convention on its ear. Zellweger’s big reveal is so divinely over the top insane that it would have done Cobra Commander proud. If anything, the film’s final third is stronger than the rest, an impressive feat for a romance. It manages to retain its hard edge right up to the end credits even when it does get to the more romantic moments. This is a worthy addition to the genre, and should not have been largely ignored as it has.

Rating: ***

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