Romantic comedy is a genre that practically begs to be lovingly mocked, and Rebel Wilson is the right woman for the job.
Wilson stars in “Isn’t It Romantic” as Natalie, an architect from Australia who now lives in New York City. Natalie is an average girl, the kind that is very aware that no one pays her much attention. But she’s also content with her life as a single woman in a crappy apartment loves her job even when she’s disrespected by colleagues and she is relegated to designing parking garages. But she has good work friends in Whitney (Betty Gilpin) and Josh (Adam Devine). Whitney is obsessed with romantic comedies, which Natalie spends hours tearing apart. She has no room in her life for the lies and unrealistic fantasies spun by romcoms.
But when Natalie is mugged in a subway station and knocked unconscious, she wakes up in a glossy, shiny version of New York City. The doctors are impossibly attractive, the world is set with Instagram filters, and every shop sells either cupcakes or wedding dresses. Before long, Natalie meets Blake (Liam Hemsworth), the attractive billionaire owner of the company that happens to be her firm’s new client. Natalie realizes the only way to wake up from this ridiculously perfect dream world is to get the “man of her dreams” to fall in love with her and sets out to make that happen. Along the way, there is a random dance number, a surprise wedding, a rivalry between female colleagues, and every other rom-com stereotype.
“Isn’t It Romantic” is a charming, happy movie that will surely delight fans of the genre. With nods to “Pretty Woman,” “13 Going on 30,” “The Wedding Singer,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and so many more, this movie was made for people who love romantic comedies. Even the title comes from a classic romantic comedy from 1948.
The script captures the heart and the cliches, also knowing when to flip them ever so slightly. Penned by a trio of writers – Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, and Katie Silberman – they bring to vivid life the insecurities, awkwardness, and general realities of being an adult woman. And they do it with the kind of humor that induces loud and healthy laughter. This may not completely skewer every rom-com trope, but it is a very funny movie and a perfect way to spend a girls night out.
Rebel Wilson is perfectly cast in the lead role. She embodies the odd balance of insecure and confident that plagues every woman. She is funny and self-deprecating, charming and sympathetic. Wilson is exactly the right person to star in an anti-rom-com.
Equally perfect is Liam Hemsworth, who in the “real life” scenario is the kind of arrogant, rich New Yorker who barely pays attention to anyone who isn’t in his cell phone. In the “rom com” side, he suddenly adopts a dreamy Australian accent, calls Natalie beautiful, and whisks her away for romantic dates on his yacht. He is a dreamy dolt who overuses adjectives and can get any girl he wants, and he wants Natalie. Hemsworth proves he can be as naturally charismatic as his older brother, officially and permanently sealing his fate as a leading man.
Adam Devine is sweet as the doting guy who has been friend-zoned. In both versions of Natalie’s life, he is basically the same. Devine is a mellow version of Jack Black and his Josh is one that believes in love and happy endings. It isn’t anything we haven’t already seen from Devine, but he’s good at being the dependable nice guy that knows how to make a woman feel important and cared for.
For Priyanka Chopra and Betty Gilpin, the film could have better utilized both. But it does a decent job with them. Chopra plays Isabella, a swimsuit model and yoga ambassador that Josh falls in love with in the rom-com life. She is the seemingly-perfect lady of Josh’s dreams, who is, of course, anything but perfect. The problem with Chopra’s character is that it just didn’t go far enough. They could have done more with her role as antagonist, but she never quite got the development to make her truly feel like an enemy. Gilpin, meanwhile, is Natalie’s best friend in their real life but becomes the sworn work enemy in the other. This aligns with a common trope where women who work together are often not allowed to be friends. But it is also not developed enough. In fact, that plotline is introduced but never goes anywhere and doesn’t ever see a resolution.
Another common trope is the Gay Best Friend. In this case, it is Donny (Brandon Scott Jones). He is the neighbor Natalie barely knows, but becomes her Gay Best Friend who doesn’t have a job, but has limitless amounts of free time, and the sassiest remark for every situation. Natalie observes with frustration that he is the offensively cliched version of a Gay Best Friend, and he is. But for this story, they give him something that we usually don’t see in this common character: a backstory and a heartfelt moment to share actual, sound advice. This shift would have been great instead of merely good, had it gone just a bit further toward lambasting the stereotype. But it was a step in the right direction.
“Isn’t It Romantic” is guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone who has worn out their DVD copy of “When Harry Met Sally,” or who has ever dreamed of a meet-cute in a park. It can also soften the skeptic who, like Wilson’s Natalie see the rom-com world as “The Matrix for lonely women.” This is a funny, harmless movie that accomplishes its mission of warming hearts on a winter evening.