Isn't It Romantic (2019) - Review

by - February 17, 2019



Synopsis: A young woman disenchanted with love mysteriously finds herself trapped inside a romantic comedy.
None Of The Feels.

Isn't It Romantic is quick to inform us that “Life is not a fairy tale.” When we first meet our leading lady Natalie, she is a young girl dreamily watching Richard Gere romance Julia Roberts and fantasizing about her own Prince Charming. Her cynical mother (a brief cameo by the always amazing Jennifer Saunders) soon dashes her hopes, bluntly informing her daughter that romantic comedies are a lie and that girls like her don’t get the happy ending. Why? They don’t look like Julia Roberts, that’s why. That’s it. That’s all it takes for Natalie to absorb her mother’s cynical view on love, and when we meet her again as a 30-something architect (played by Rebel Wilson), it’s clear her thoughts on love, and romantic comedies, has not changed.

Rather than designing fancy New York hotels, Natalie creates parking garages. She is close friends with her movie obsessed assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) and her encouraging colleague Josh (Adam Devine) while remaining oblivious to his subtle advances.

After catching Whitney watching The Wedding Singer at work, Natalie goes on a long diatribe listing out all of the reasons why romantic comedies are terrible, after which Whitney suggests Natalie be more open to people. Unfortunately, Natalie’s first attempt at taking her friend’s advice leads to her being mugged on the subway station where she hits her head and falls unconscious. When she wakes up, she’s in the hospital with a handsome doctor who can’t get over how beautiful she is. Yes, Natalie has woken up to find herself in the middle of a romantic comedy and she hates every minute of it. Her apartment is larger and exquisitely decorated. Her dog is clean and obeys her commands. Her real-world drug dealing neighbor Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) is now an unemployed flamboyantly gay man who exists solely to help Natalie navigate her perfect life. Oh, and she’s caught the eye of her firm’s wealthy, hunky client Blake (Liam Hemsworth) who, before her head trauma, assumed she was the coffee girl rather than an architect.

While New York now smells like lavender and has a soft, gorgeous filter, Natalie isn’t having any of it. She seeks help from Josh who seems keen to believe her tale, but they’re derailed by the sudden choking of yoga ambassador and swimsuit model Isabella (Priyanka Chopra). Josh saves her life and it’s love at first sight, leaving Natalie on her own to figure out how to get things back to normal. She realizes she needs to embrace the tropes now leading her journey and ultimately make a man fall in love with her. Cue the first date montage set to Annie Lennox.

You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to pick up on the cliches. They’re so painfully accurate while still laugh out loud funny. Most notably, the movie skewers the more problematic rom-com tropes, including the stereotypical gay sidekick who only seems to tone things down when he has some real heart to heart advice to give. There is also a distinct lack of diversity save for Chopra’s character and a minor character or two, but I could not tell you if that was yet another point the movie was trying to make or not.

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson crams as many rom-com tropes and sentimental homages into the film as he can, but he also effectively deals with a plus size protagonist while not making it a Thing itself. Natalie’s mother is frank about Natalie’s lack of appeal compared to the beautiful actresses on screen, which no doubt led to Natalie’s lack of self-confidence as an adult. As she explains to Josh, she feels invisible to attractive men. It’s clear her other co-workers see her as someone to push their tedious work off onto because she’s not assertive enough to tell them no. And the first time she decides to try and connect with a man, he mugs her.

It's meant as humor, but it's also a bit heartbreaking that in her rom-com world she marvels to Josh that men are finally looking her in the eyes. Natalie is very aware of her lot in life but thankfully she’s not treated like a joke. It’s refreshing that but for a brief mention of her build when she stops a food cart, there are no digs or jokes about her weight. She may be a bit of a pushover, but she’s also a gifted architect, kind and witty, and full of biting one-liners. A human being worthy of love just as all of the Julia Roberts of the world are. You see the kind of woman that Whitney and Josh can obviously see, even if Natalie is lacking the ability to do the same.

Yes, Isn’t It Romantic is satire, but it also slips into the tropes it has so much fun picking apart. Natalie’s journey of self-discovery and self-love is only aided by her budding feelings for Josh, and yes, the heartfelt advice from Donny. In the end, can she have everything that she’s always believed was so far from reach? Given this is a romantic comedy, what do you think?

I truly loved this movie. Rebel Wilson is such a natural performer and it was wonderful to see a film that really knew what to do with her comedic skill sets. She also shows her dramatic chops are on par with her humor and I sincerely hope to see her in more films as a leading lady, whether they be romantic comedies or not. Adam Devine continues to impress me. He has a quality to him that reminds me of a younger Tom Hanks mixed with a touch of a more restrained Jack Black. I loved him in his Netflix rom-com When We First Met, and in Isn’t It Romantic, he proved that he has longevity in these types of roles. Wilson and Devine’s chemistry remain on point, as evident and charming, and thankfully less outlandish, as it was in Pitch Perfect and its first sequel.

I found the weak link in Isn’t It Romantic to be Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra, but that’s by no fault of their own. Hemsworth is clearly having a lot of fun as the gorgeous yet dull love interest who can’t stop calling Natalie “beguiling”. Like his brother Chris, Liam has a comedic flare that drew a lot of the laughs. Chopra’s Isabella is exactly what you would expect from the gorgeous supermodel whose only purpose in the film is to be a romantic rival to the more likable protagonist. She’s the anti-Natalie, perfect in every way men probably fantasize about but without any real depth. Both characters are underwritten and one dimensional but I found that to be purposeful and part of the satire.

The screenplay was written by three women (Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, and Kate Silberman) who have already made their mark in the world of romantic comedies. It’s clear that while they’re fans of the genre, they’re also well aware of its problems, even if those problems are dealt with by becoming a punchline. Isn’t It Romantic is a charming romantic comedy within a parody of a romantic comedy. It makes fun of the genre while simultaneously celebrating it, reminding us that yes, these movies are silly and wildly unrealistic, but for the most part, they just want to bring us joy and make us feel good. Honestly, in the depressing era of twenty-four hour news cycles, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to lose ourselves in an ideal world of cheesy romance and soundtracks full of saccharine.

Starring: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Rated: PG-13
Watched: 02.15.2019
Fun Facts:
- Director Todd Strauss-Schulson watched 65 romantic-comedies over two weeks and noted the similar visual and narrative tropes found amongst them, in order to emulate them in his film.
- During test screenings, Rebel Wilson would wear a wig and sunglasses and sneak into the back to hear feedback from the audience.
- Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine had played love interests in Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 and Workaholics.
- Due to using the song "Express Yourself", Madonna had to approve of the cast's singing prior to shooting.
Notable Song: 1000 Miles by Vanessa Carlton
Rating:







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4 comments

  1. I'm so glad this is getting such positive reviews! I'm a huge fan of Rebel Wilson but her movies have been really hit and miss. Dead excited to see this one for myself now :)

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    1. I was definitely encouraged by the reviews before I went to see it and it lived up to the expectations I had for it in my own head. I do love Rebel Wilson so it was great to see her in such a fantastic role. I hope you enjoy it too!~

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  2. This looks awesome! I'm a big fan of Rebel! It actually drops on Netflix at 28th which is kinda fast, I would hope they gave it a chance to earn a bit more money in cinemas

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    1. dang that IS fast! I feel like the movie could do some decent business by word of mouth, but it certainly won't pull in Crazy Rich Asian numbers. I would probably go see it again if my schedule (aka parenting my kids lol) allowed it. :D

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