Isn’t it Romantic: Review
After the success of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and the subsequent disappointment of Sierra Burgess is a Loser, I approached the new Netflix Original film, Isn’t it Romantic, with some trepidation.
With a cast that included Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, and the one and only Jennifer Saunders, it demanded to be watched. The premise is as follows: 9-year-old Natalie (Wilson) falls in love with romantic comedies, but is told by her mother (Saunders) that ‘in real life, girls like us don’t get that…look in the mirror doll, we’re no Julia Roberts.’
Naturally, throughout the course of the film, Natalie proves her mother wrong in true rom-com style, but not in the way one would think. The twist is that Natalie suffers a concussion after a mugging, and wakes up in her very own romantic comedy. The film satirises the very genre that it belongs to, commenting on the clichés and tropes that characterise its more formulaic predecessors, and is told through the perspective of an overweight, exasperated, and frankly tired protagonist. The result is, of course, absolutely hilarious.
It’s not often that a rom-com makes me laugh aloud, but this ‘anti-rom-com’ rom-com managed to strike the perfect balance between following the genre’s tropes and focusing on friendships, love, romance, self-discovery and, of course, cheesy music; also mocking the ways in which these themes are usually displayed. The film pokes fun at romantic clichés, such as the gay best friend that ‘sets gay rights back about 100 years’, the unrealistically large and clean downtown apartment, the ‘clumsy but cute’ female protagonist, and the ultimately predictable romance blossoming between best friends who had previously never considered their feelings.
However, it also highlighted small things that the viewer can recognise as clichéd, but until viewing didn’t realise how common they were. We saw the classic main love interest, who wears suits and is excessively wealthy, continuously going off to call his father, gesticulating wildly. There are, of course, limousine journeys across the city that take 18 seconds, the secondary characters who have no backstory, family, or occupation, and the protagonist’s office environment is similar to a playground or coffee shop, open-plan, colourful, relaxed, and providing freshly baked Danish pastries for employees at 8 am. Obviously.
Some of my favourite parts include:
1) Blake (Hemsworth) writing his number on rose petals, and sprinkling them into Natalie’s hat…
‘You do realise there’s like 3.6 million permutations of how this could go together?’
‘But there’s only one you, so’
‘Right, that doesn’t really make sense’,
‘Neither does the way I’m feeling about you right now.’
…approximately four minutes after their first meeting.
2) Blake exclaiming ‘are you feeling what I’m feeling?’ from the open top of his limo, to which Natalie replies simply ‘No.’
3) The repetition of the word ‘beguiling’.
4) The multiple generic wide shots of the New York skyline set to Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’.
5) Rebel Wilson’s costumes- all of them.
Despite the laughter, however, the part of the film that really resonated with me wasn’t the part where she fell for her friend or the jokes poked at the genre and film industry itself. Instead, it was the opening scene, where a young Natalie watches Pretty Woman, full of hope and excitement that one day love will sweep her off her feet too. Her mother’s words bring her down and lead to her believing that dreams of love and happiness cannot be realised for her. This, to me, highlighted one of the reasons that romantic comedies, despite the clichés, have remained one of the most popular genres in Hollywood. They allow ‘regular’ people, those of us who don’t look like Julia Roberts or Richard Gere, to indulge in an almost childlike disregard for anything that may hold us back from our dreams of love and the ‘happily ever after’. When Natalie falls for Josh (Adam Devine), she immediately remembers her nine-year-old self, and how it felt to be told that this love and acceptance would never happen to her.
The film includes Natalie’s romance in order to demonstrate how romance itself is not cheesy or a ‘guilty pleasure’ that will never happen, but the way in which the film industry produces carbon copies of the same love stories with the same tropes is getting old.
Ultimately, Natalie falls in love with herself, whilst also proving to herself that happily ever afters can happen, even to us regular folk.
[Photo credits: Eva Rinaldi, CC BY-SA 2.0.]