Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written By: Dana Fox, Erin Cardillo, Katie Silberman
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes
Isn’t It Romantic is a masterpiece. Not in the sense that it’s ideologically revolutionary or that it’s even necessarily going to stand the test of time, but it is skillfully conceived, written, acted, shot, and edited in a way that can only be described as masterful. I’ve seen it twice and, while that has scratched the itch for now, I have no doubt that I will watch it again. And again. And again.
The movie opens on Natalie (Rebel Wilson) living an average life in a dingy, stinky version of New York. She has a tiny apartment, a disobedient dog, and a job as an undervalued architect at a small office where she works alongside two friends (Adam Devine and Betty Gilpin). One thing leads to another and, after spending several hours complaining about the unrealistic, flawed nature of romantic comedies, Wilson wakes up in one herself.
From the moment that Natalie wakes up, we are in a different universe. Everyone is beautiful, coupled off, and dressed in eye-popping color. The streets are brightly colored, the air apparently smells like lavender – even the parking signs have engagement rings on them instead of, y’know, parking instructions. Not only that, but Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles suddenly becomes the soundtrack to Natalie’s new life and she finds herself on the receiving end of some unwelcome (but wholesome!) romantic attention. This romantic attention is almost without fail the romantic comedy staple of Natalie tripping, being caught by a handsome stranger, and dramatically locking eyes.
But she hates it: partially because that doesn’t happen in real life and partially because she “knows” that she isn’t special, so she doesn’t trust them “being so nice” to her. Isn’t it Romantic is a good parody (birds fly in heart formations in rom-com land! someone screams “thank you!” every single time an item gets thrown from a window!), but it’s more than that. The audience gets to see Natalie grow her confidence and self-love and becoming more comfortable as the star of the ridiculous romantic comedy she woke up in – even if that means running in slow motion at the appropriate moment.
Rebel Wilson puts on an exuberant, nuanced performance. She is the one straight character in a story full of over-exaggerated tropes (speaking of which, big ups to Priyanka Chopra for possibly the best hair flip of the decade and Betty Gilpin for going from awkward girl next door to cultivated she-demon in the space of one movie), but Wilson does so with verve, making the audience laugh, cringe, and get a little emotional right along with her.
Of course, there are flaws in masterpieces. There were a few parts of the movie that could have used tightening (although that is probably more of an editing issue than a writing one – the snappy dialogue and funny tone were impeccably done by the writing team) and Liam Hemsworth’s performance didn’t work quite as well for me on a second viewing, but any issues are nominal.
There are plenty of things that are wrong with romantic comedies as a genre–and most of those are laid out very effectively by Natalie towards the beginning of the movie–but there is a lot of good in them, too. Isn’t it Romantic makes fun of the bad parts, elevates the good parts, and constantly references classic romantic comedies. (My personal favorite was “you had me at hello-copter.” I’ll leave it up to you to find the rest.)
See Isn’t It Romantic. If you like parodies. If you like rom-coms. If you like Rebel Wilson. Shoot, if you like playing I Spy, you should watch it and see how many of the references you catch. From a cast that easily hits key touchstones, incredible visuals, and a fun (ultimately feel good) storyline, Isn’t It Romantic is one of the good ones.
Have you seen ‘Isn’t It Romantic’? Well, what did you think?