Isn't It Romantic? (2019)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Rebel Wilson’s first leading role is (ahem) pitch perfect for her, and Isn’t It Romantic? is just the right mix of satire and homage to the rom-com’s we have watched countless times through the years.
What comes across pretty clearly is that this film looked like a lot of fun to make - everyone seems to be having a ball on screen.
Settle in and have fun. There are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes than this.
That it becomes much of what it has made fun of appears to have frustrated some people who otherwise enjoyed the film.
You are fiercely protective of your romantic comedies and cannot handle anyone making fun of them.
The film does become rather predictable and doesn’t leave you guessing its ultimate direction for very long.
Isn’t It Romantic? is a movie that kind of feels as if it should have been released 3-4 years ago. At the time, Rebel Wilson was a prominent comedienne and actor, appearing in supporting roles in a wide array of ensemble and comedic films, even landing a sitcom, “Super Fun Night,” on ABC for one season.
Her breakthrough, largely attributed to a hilarious cameo in 2011’s Bridesmaids and her turn as “Fat Amy” in the Pitch Perfect franchise, ran into something of a snag in 2016. As fickle as the entertainment world can be, Wilson’s A-list spotlight looked to be unceremoniously ripped away from her.
There was a Twitter controversy, tabloids branding her a serial liar regarding her name, age, and personal life, misogynist critics attacking her for her weight and appearance, and a few box office disappointments piled on top of everything else.
She retreated a bit. Finished the Pitch Perfect movies, but largely stepped away from the noise and worked on stage. And after recalibrating things a bit, 2019 finds her leading her first motion picture, an (ahem) pitch perfect choice to star in the romantic-comedy skewering novelty of Isn’t It Romantic?
Wilson proves rather delightful in a movie that finds her character, Natalie, an Australian architect, suffering a concussion and waking up to find that she lives within the construct of a Rom-Com – the world is a romantic comedy and she appears to be the star.
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas), Wilson is given considerable space to play with the premise, which purposefully hints at dozens of rom-com’s we have loved and loathed through the years.
Once Natalie awakes in an alternate reality, many of her egomaniacal male colleagues begin to recognize her and pay attention to her thoughts and opinions. A new client, Blake (Liam Hemsworth), falls head over heels for her and tries to sweep her off her feet. Her trusted assistant, Whitney (Betty Gilpin), becomes a ferocious, bitter enemy in the workplace, and the New York she has grown accustomed to, traveling to work each day, now looks de-cluttered, cleaned up, and desirably motivating.
What’s down is up and what’s up is down and Isn’t It Romantic? has fun with the juxtaposition. Wilson’s off-kilter sensibility is quite on point, as she never quite adjusts to this new life she is experiencing. As she becomes successful, and her relationship with Blake blossoms, the one constant between pre-concussion Natalie and post-concussion Natalie is the kind-hearted Josh (Adam DeVine, Wilson’s romantic partner in two Pitch Perfect films).
Josh’s sweet demeanor is taken for granted by Natalie, but when Josh has a chance encounter with supermodel Isabella (Priyanka Chopra), things get complicated, even in such an artificially perfect utopia.
Through all of the predictability and self-reverence, Wilson is the glue that holds everything together. Her chemistry with Hemsworth is perfect for the eventual realizations we all know are going to emerge, and Hemsworth showcases a comedic wit and timing, on par with big brother Chris.
Overall, the atmosphere is as catchy as either of the two dance numbers in the film. The colors pop throughout the film, a testament to the stylish costumes and set design throughout. The screenplay by Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, and Katie Silberman is a series of witty jokes and simple satire, cleverly forcing Wilson to realize that, like with nearly every romantic comedy made in the last 30+ years, the world she finds herself is rated PG-13.
By fully embracing the formula as the film moves along, we lose some of the charm. And even in the fantastical world Natalie finds herself in, there are some logical gaffes on just how this world exists and operates.
With that said, Wilson’s first opportunity to lead a major studio film is a delight. I left the theater smiling ear-to-ear. While one may wish the film didn’t enthusiastically embrace much of what it mocks along the way, Wilson’s unique brand of comedy suits this kind of thing very well.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam DeVine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones, Jennifer Saunders.
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by: Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, Katie Silberman (screenplay); Erin Cardillo (story)
Release Date: February 13, 2019