Isn’t It Romantic swings away at the consistent tropes of romantic comedies. The heroine is likable but clumsy; there is usually a flamboyantly gay best friend with no life outside of the scenes shot with the heroine; the heroine has a work-related enemy dead set on preventing the heroine’s happiness for no apparent reason. All of these, and many more, are covered by Rebel Wilson’s performance in the work directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas). But does it end up anywhere different than where it started?
Natalie (Wilson) hates romantic comedies, and has since her alcoholic mother crushes the charm out of Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman. She sees her office friend Josh (Adam DeVine) as solely interested in the underwear model on the billboard outside (Priyanka Chopra), missing the clear signals that her assistant, Whitney (Betty Gilpin), tries to point out to her. She’s at the mercy of one of the client’s at the architect company where she works, Blake (Liam Hemsworth), and struggling to see any point to what her life looks like, single and held under the thumb of the patriarchy.
Then Natalie thwarts a would-be mugger, hits her head, and ends up experiencing all of the typical moments of a rom-com, complete with a standard soundtrack (“No More I Love Yous,” “The Lady in Red,” “Kiss Me,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”). She’s suddenly the object of every man’s obsession, hounded by Whitney who is now her enemy, and pursued by Blake. Nothing makes sense to her – or to the audience – but she’s acknowledging all of this from a cynic’s perspective in ways that can force a chuckle.
While the special features include “I Wanna Dance!” and some deleted scenes, the package as a whole leaves something to be desired. After fighting off the normal expectations of the rom-com, even ridiculing them for two-thirds of the film, Isn’t It Romantic settles for a pretty clean wrap-up of expectations, including Natalie’s needing a man. In true rom-com fashion, the wrap-up leaves us with the same questions she once had about rom-coms: where do the characters go from here? Yes, it’s clever, and even challenges societal expectations about love, dating, and sex (in a good way), but in the end, it defaults to the norm we already know to resolve all of the conflict.
Isn’t that sad?
Warner Bros. provided me with a copy of this film in exchange for an honest review.