Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Isn’t It Romantic, or: Gratuitous Karaoke Moment

Last week’s film, which also has a title in the form of a question, was a romantic movie that failed to stir any love in our hearts. This week, our film promises to follow romantic conventions too, even as it picks them apart. Will that be enough to win over our cynical leading ladies (bloggers)? Two guesses.

The Film:

Isn’t It Romantic

The Premise:

Ambitious career lady Natalie avoids romantic entanglements until she’s trapped in a romantic comedy and must find love to escape.

The Ramble:

While growing up with an extremely jaded mother who was quick to shoot down her dreams of finding love, it didn’t take long for Natalie to become wholly disillusioned with the entire concept.

A successful, career-driven architect, Natalie has talent but lacks confidence. Everyone at the office takes advantage of her, easily persuading her to do their jobs and minor errands. Luckily, Natalie has two supporters at work: her assistant and bff Whitney (a hopeless romantic who spends most of her days watching rom-coms) and work buddy Josh (who believes in Natalie and very obviously likes her as more than a friend).

Two women in an office talk while one tries to figure out the photocopier.

Things take a dramatic turn when, attempting to recover her purse from a mugger, Natalie is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up in a beautiful hospital with gorgeous doctors who find her confusion charming, it doesn’t take long for her to realize she’s somehow been transported to a romantic comedy. Even worse, this is a PG-13 rom-com: no sex, no swearing, and definitely no nudity.

When trying to escape her personal nightmare, Natalie is hit by billionaire Blake’s stretch limo. Whereas Blake is an obnoxious client who sends Natalie on errands to bring him coffee in reality, in this version of the world, Blake is well-mannered and clearly interested in Natalie. Realizing she may have to play by rom-com rules to escape, Natalie believes she’ll need Blake to fall in love with her and agrees to a date filled with all of the rom-com tropes.

A man and woman sit next to each other on the counter of a darkened ice cream parlor.

With the help of her gay best friend Donny, who manages to appear when most convenient, Natalie will definitely have the support and over-investment in her love life we’d expect from a rom-com.

A man in matching shirt and shorts with a bold print sits cros-legged on the edge of a large bathtub in an elegant bathroom.

Meanwhile, at work, Natalie finds Whitney has become her archnemesis, who is determined to sabotage her before the big presentation, whatever that may be. Fortunately, Josh is still around to help Natalie navigate her strange new world. This won’t last long as, when Josh saves model Isabella from choking, he is wrapped up in a whirlwind romance. After only a few days as a couple, Isabella and Josh host a fancy party at a beach house in the Hamptons–a party that is, in fact, a surprise wedding!

A man and woman walk next to each other as they talk, crossing a bridge in Central Park.

What happens when it turns out Blake isn’t such a nice guy after all and Natalie becomes determined to stop the wedding? Might karaoke play a rather important role in all of this?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Not going to lie, this film earned a lot of points with me for its soundtrack, and even with its clichés, I love the Whitney Houston karaoke number. At the same time, the (gratuitous) karaoke scene also brought to mind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s recent rom-com parody episode. CEG overall has an awareness that this film does not, undermining stereotypes successfully in a way that IIR doesn’t, exploring the emotional depth of its characters, and creating moments that offer genuine surprise and nuance.

IIR tries half-heartedly to do this with its opening scene in which Natalie’s resistance to romance is explained by her relationship with her horrible mother, who tells her love is a fairy tale that she doesn’t deserve (implicitly because she’s fat). There are a lot of problems here, but the one that leaps out to me is the implication from this scene that you have to be psychologically damaged to reject the possibility of (extremely heteronormative) romance in your life.

Let’s go back to the lack of self-awareness of this film. It makes me cringe that Natalie comments on the whiteness of rom-coms, yet our only character of color is Priyanka Chopra’s Isabella (who identifies as a yoga ambassador, which would require its own post to unpack). Adding one person of color to your film, workplace, etc. is NOT diversity.

Natalie is wryly funny at times, but it’s aggravating how many times she falls in ways that rely on the hilarious(?) optics of a fat body thudding to the ground. Don’t get me started on her “friendzoning” (barf barf barf) her bff Adam DeVine, whose face has always seemed very punchable to me. He’s just so mediocre that his success makes me angry.

There are also a lot of issues with the film’s attempts to take apart the gay best friend stereotype. While Donny is played by a gay actor (I Googled it), it feels more as if the audience is laughing at him than with him. There are some funny observations about this rom-com staple, like the fact that Donny is unemployed yet somehow financially secure, and dedicates all of his time to improving our heroine’s love life. This film is good at exaggerating, but it doesn’t do particularly well at anything else.

That being said, I did get some genuine laughs from this. Rebel Wilson is quite charming here, though I wish she were a bit more sharply funny and subversive too.

Would my blog wife join in a karaoke duet with this one or leave it to wither away in fantasy rom-com land? Find out in her review here!

4 thoughts on “Isn’t It Romantic, or: Gratuitous Karaoke Moment”

  1. Shit. You’re so right about the yoga ambassador thing. I didn’t even twig. And it is so very heteronormative! Oh the more I think of it the more I realise how much this missed the mark, which is a shame! Love your review, I didn’t really have the brain power last night to unpack it the way you have, all your observations are on point! x

    Liked by 1 person

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