Isn’t It Romantic wastes its cast and an interesting premise on a rather humdrum final product. The lead character, Natalie (Rebel Wilson), has a long-standing hatred of Romantic Comedies (as she expounds to her hapless coworker for hours when the subject is brought up). This disenchantment stems from her childhood and her mother telling her that “girls like them” don’t get a happy ending. This has led to Natalie growing up with a rather pessimistic attitude that no good things will happen to her, only bad.
But things change when she knocks herself unconscious following an altercation with a mugger in the subway. Everything is so much nicer than she expects or remembers: people are better looking, her apartment and clothing have been upgraded, her coworkers treat her better, and a rich, handsome man is beguiled by her for no apparent reason. She ultimately comes to the realization that her life has suddenly taken on the characteristics of a romantic comedy, and she is desperate to return to her normal existence and executes a variety of schemes to try and draw her rom-com to a close and get back to how things were.
For me, the problem with the movie was that it sucked all of the sappy romance out of the rom-com tropes without replacing it with enough humor from the comedy of making fun of the tropes. Natalie goes from depressed and put-upon in her real life to confused and annoyed in her rom-com life. Her sarcastic quips about the clichés she has found herself surrounded by are like sitting next to a grumpy friend commenting on the movie – mildly amusing at first but then just tiring. In rom-com world the people around Natalie are playing things straight while Natalie is annoyed by but not really freaking out over her strange situation. This leads to a rather flat emotional tone for the movie – no one really gets that excited or worked up about anything, not even falling in love or falling into a strange alternate reality. Which makes the sudden musical dance sequences seem really out of place. Maybe they were playing it that way to be humorous, but it just seems like bad editing.
It is only in the set design that we really see the cheesiness of the rom-com world: birds fly by in a heart shaped pattern, flowers are everywhere, everything is cleaner and painted in bright colors. But the people in the rom-com are living their lives with all the enthusiasm of someone going out for a cup of coffee. Blake (Liam Hemsworth), Natalie’s rich, handsome rom-com boyfriend quotes someone as saying your soulmate should make you feel calm, not give you palpitations. That seems to match his general attitude as in many of his conversations with Natalie he seems as excited as if he were discussing the weather. During their big romantic dinner on a yacht, Natalie is impressed but not that excited. She claims it is the best meal she’s had but with all the enthusiasm of someone who has found a good pizza place.
When getting Blake to declare his love fails to release her from the rom-com world, Natalie begins to think that maybe Josh (Adam Devine), the guy from work she has friend-zoned, is really the guy for her. Unfortunately, Josh has since fallen into a rom-com relation with Isabella (Priyanka Chopra), a rich and beautiful model he plans to marry. So now Natalie must stop their wedding if she wants Josh. Around this time Blake inexplicably morphs into a controlling jerk. Is this change in character supposed to reflect Natalie’s disenchantment with her supposedly perfect rom-com life? Emphasize the fact that Blake is not the man for her? Foreshadow what might have happened in all those rom-com movies after their big finale? We don’t know. Suddenly, he’s a jerk, and then we don’t see him again.
Natalie finally comes to two important realizations in her rom-com world: the importance of loving yourself and that you shouldn’t need someone else to complete you. It is just as she finally learns this that she gets another concussion and is back in the real world. Fortunately, she has now gotten some confidence and faith in herself that allows her to be more assertive and to finally take a chance on love.
The movie was amusing and entertaining but not the laugh-out-loud comedy I was expecting from the cast and the premise. I think it would have worked better if they had ramped up the silliness instead of mostly playing it straight. The stand out character to me was Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) who becomes a campy caricature of the sassy best friend in rom-com land. Some of the other characters have their best moments when they are allowed to go over the top with their performance. Rebel Wilson’s talent is squandered by having her play such a low-key grumpy sad sack most of the movie. I would have preferred to see her really freaking out over her predicament, being much more scathing and disparaging when confronted with the rom-com clichés, or even just wallowing in her good luck for a moment when she wakes up in a Barbie dream house with all the clothes and accessories.
Mildly humorous but doesn’t make the most of the cast or premise.
Did you watch Isn’t it Romantic? What did you think of the movie? Tell us in the comments!