Isn't It Romantic is a wild and hilarious meta journey inside a romantic comedy, poking fun at the genre's tropes while embracing its message of love.
In the current moment of Hollywood, the romantic comedy is experiencing somewhat of a revival. Thanks to a 2018 that featured the big screen success of Crazy Rich Asians and the buzzworthy Netflix films To All the Boys I've Loved Before and Set It Up, rom-coms are staging a comeback among mainstream releases after being relegated to the realms of made-for-TV movies and indies. It's only appropriate then that Warner Bros. should release Isn't It Romantic, an affectionate parody of the genre as a whole, particularly the romantic comedies of the '80s and '90s with their idealized worlds. After all, what happens when girls who grew up on a steady diet of rom-coms learn that life doesn't really have a happily ever after? Isn't It Romantic is a wild and hilarious meta journey inside a romantic comedy, poking fun at the genre's tropes while embracing its message of love.
Isn't It Romantic follows Natalie (Rebel Wilson), an Australian architect living in New York City who has detested romantic comedies since her mother (Jennifer Saunders) forced her to look at the films through a cynical lens. In her adult life, Natalie is a closed-off person who doesn't assert herself in important situations at her job, like presenting her idea for the parking garage for the hotel her firm is designing. However, after going on a long diatribe about the evils of rom-coms to her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) and her best friend Josh (Adam DeVine), Natalie is mugged on the subway and knocked unconscious, waking up in the surreal, idealized world of a romantic comedy.
In this world, Natalie's small apartment is upgraded to a massive (by New York standards) studio, her office looks like a young and fun start-up, Whitney is her mortal work enemy and the client, Blake (Liam Hemsworth), not only notices her, but finds her to be very "beguiling." Though Josh seems to be the same, Natalie doesn't get much help from him in figuring out how to escape the PG-13 rom-com universe since he soon gets swept up in his own romance with swimsuit model Isabella (Priyanka Chopra). Instead, Natalie must resort to her own Gay Best Friend, Donny (Brandon Scott Jones), in order to help her make Blake fall in love with her in a bid to escape this rom-com world. However, getting back to her normal life isn't quite as easy as Natalie believed, and she'll have to learn certain lessons about love before she can escape this romantic comedy.
Isn't It Romantic is directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (The Final Girls) and written by Erin Cardillo (Life Sentence, Significant Mother), Dana Fox (How to Be Single) and Katie Silberman (Set It Up) from a story by Cardillo. Cardillo, Fox and Silberman have a great deal of experience working on (both film and TV) rom-coms between the three of them, and they have an obvious love for the classics of the genre, referencing scenes from the likes of When Harry Met Sally to more general tropes like the Gay Best Friend or the pivotal wedding scene. For his part, Strauss-Schulson has experience is exploring the idealized world of a movie genre, having directed The Final Girls, which takes on the tropes of slasher horror movies in a similar manner. In Isn't It Romantic, Strauss-Schulson applies a similar visual sensibility to differentiate the styles of the real and rom-com worlds, helping to bring this oddball movie premise to life and accentuate the story's themes.
The story of Isn't It Romantic both deconstructs the conventions of rom-coms and acts as a send-up to the genre as a whole, providing a new spin on the format. Although the movie follows a woman who ostensibly hates romantic comedies and wants to make a case for why they aren't true to life, Isn't It Romantic is clearly for lovers of the genre - but those who have grown up and realized how hyper-idealized the version of love and romance is as depicted in those films from the '80s and '90s. Isn't It Romantic is still a romantic comedy, but one that builds on the genre's legacy and offers a modern message about love. Perhaps the most modern and unconventional aspect of Isn't It Romantic is the film's exploration of different kinds of love, not just romantic, but platonic and self-love. Isn't It Romantic makes the bold assertion (for a rom-com, anyway) that romantic love isn't the most important kind of love, and can actually be secondary to what will truly make someone happy.
Of course, that story wouldn't be nearly as successful if not for the performance of the film's lead, and Wilson excellently walks the fine line between unrelatable cynic and rom-com heroine. She provides a compelling foil to the idealized conventions of romantic comedies as the everyman (or, everywoman) character who's thrust into a surrealistic world that she must explore and escape. Further, Wilson's co-stars, Hemsworth and DeVine, are compelling male romantic leads in their own ways. Hemsworth embodies the aloof businessman and alluring overly-romantic admirer, while DeVine brings his typical humorous charm to a more realistic character. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out well by Gilpin, Chopra and Scott, who play more stock characters to complement the core trio.
Still, perhaps the biggest strength of Isn't It Romantic is that it's clear everyone involved in the project has a love of rom-coms. It's not a takedown of romantic comedies, but a thoughtful critique of what the genre teaches young girls while offering a more empowering (and realistic) message. Given the genre's storied history, Isn't It Romantic likely could have gone a little deeper into its deconstruction of rom-com tropes and conventions, but the film uses its brisk, just short of 90-minutes runtime well enough. Altogether, though, Isn't It Romantic fits perfectly into the recent rom-com revival, offering a slightly different perspective as it plays with convention, but still adhering to the heart of the genre, which are themes of love and fulfillment.
As a result, Isn't It Romantic is perfect for romantic comedy lovers, particularly those who watched the classics growing up. It's perhaps a bold move to release an atypical rom-com just before Valentine's Day, but Isn't It Romantic will likely be just as fun of a watch for couples as for singles and groups of friends. It's a movie for movie lovers and a rom-com for rom-com lovers, so it's only appropriate that it releases just before a holiday dedicated to love. Ultimately, Isn't It Romantic is a fun and modern romantic comedy that continues the genre's revival with an altogether delightful sendup to its tropes and conventions while staying true to what's most important - the film's message of love.
Isn't It Romantic is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 88 minutes long and rated PG-13 for language, some sexual material, and a brief drug reference.
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- Isn't It Romantic (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2019