Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #19- "DOWN WITH LOVE." (VALENTINE'S WEEK SPECIAL)


NAME: DOWN WITH LOVE

RELEASED: 2003

RATING: 15

WRITTEN BY: EVE AHLERT & DENNIS DRAKE

DIRECTED BY: PAYTON REED

STARRING: RENEE ZELLWEGER, EWAN MCGREGOR, SARAH PAULSON, DAVID HYDE PIERCE

GENRE: SCREWBALL ROMANTIC COMEDY

BOUGHT FROM: CEX

PRICE: 50p

LOKK AT MEEEEEE!!!! I IZ REVUE MOOOVEEE COOLED "DOWN WIV LUV" 3 DAES BEFOUR VALENTINZ DAE!!!! I IZ A JEANEUZ!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!1!

Um... yes, well... I was in two minds about reviewing a romantic comedy this week, for the very reason I eventually decided to do it. I just thought might seem a bit predictable and tacky leading up to Valentine's Day. I mean, Christmas reviews are one thing, but for some reason I thought this might be taking it too far. I got over this eventually for three reasons- 1) the pun of the title just proved too much for me to resist, as you can plainly see, 2) I've not done a romantic comedy during this enterprise, so I thought this would be as good an excuse as any to finally get round to one, and 3) I specifically wanted to cover this romantic comedy, because being totally honest, I've already seen a bit of it. And when say "a bit," I mean a bit, five minutes at the most. It was one of the movies showing during a flight to Florida I was on several years ago. There were literally no other films on worth watching, so I put it on in the hope that it would at least prove a decent distraction. Then I put my head back, closed my eyes to rest them for what I thought was a moment, only to open them again and find we were landing. I managed to sleep through an entire flight and several showing of the same movie. That could be a better review of this than I could ever write.

I suppose another reason I didn't want to do anything Valentine's Day-related was because for a very long time I was one of those arseholes who hated that particular day and made damn-well sure everybody knew about it. My hatred came in two distinct phases over the years- the first one was your bog-standard, Emo, "OH WOE IS ME I HAVE NOBODY TO LOVE ME!" kind of thing through my early-to-mid teens, where I'd spend the entire day alone in my room listening to sad music (Christ, just typing this is just making me wish I could go back in time and give my younger self a good hiding...) and cursing anyone and everyone who had somebody. The second phase was slightly more complex, inasmuch as it was built around me telling people that I had no problem with Valentine's Day anymore. And then telling them over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, to the point that it's obvious that I did still have a problem, and was trying so fucking hard to convince everyone, myself included, that I didn't. Oh, and I'd also throw in this long speech about how Valentine's Day is just a holiday created by the card companies to make money and anyody who celebrated it was an idiot. So as well as failing at deluding everyone, I was now implying that I thought I was somehow smarter and more enlightened than them, just because I didn't have anybody to buy a card for (WHERE'S THAT FUCKING TIME MACHINE?!). There are days when I look back, remember how I was and am amazed, absolutely amazed, that I have friends. Nowadays, I just shrug my sholders and go, "eh." If you're with someone, great, buy them a card, take them out to dinner, go all-out. If you're not, big deal. Just treat it like another day and don't sweat it. Just don't be how I was, don't go out of your way to make people feel bad about not being single in a passive-aggresive manner, because trust me, they'll all secretly hate you for it.

So anyway, onto the movie. I've noticed recently online that there's bee a real flare-up in hostility towards romantic comedies. It started around the time the "Sex & The City" movie was released. Now, I'm not going to defend or demonize that movie, because I've not seen it. And I'm also not going to say I didn't make any jokes about it or it's actresses leading up to it's release, because I did. I mean come on, they wrote themselves and were fairly obvious (and if we've learned nothing else today, it's that I can't resist an obvious joke). But there's a difference between making fun of a movie, and outright stating you think it shouldn't exist, which is what I saw more than a few people suggesting. They were absolutely outraged that this movie was coming out, and even implied that this somehow tarnished the very history of cinema itself. At first I just thought it was The Internet being The Internet, this sullen, pale creature prone to hyperbole that still thinks girls have cooties. But then I started to notice a real ground-swell of hatred towards all movies that had females as their intended audience, with whole films being denounced as shit just because some dude's girlfriend wanted to see it.

I have a theory about this. I have a theory about a great many things. For instance, I have a theory that Jason Statham is the only living example of what all mankind will one day evolve into. My theory regarding what I was just talking about though, is that because it's become percieved (rightly or wrongly) by alot of men that television has become gradually more aimed at women, they've started to see cinema (rightly or wrongly) as the last form of visual entertainment that's mostly theirs, and see anything not aimed at them as evidence that this is now slipping away from them, too. The "Sex & The City," movie must have really pushed a few buttons if I'm right, because here we have a (grrr...) movie aimed at women, based on a (GRRR!) TV show aimed at women. My favourite thing of all though was when it beat the new "Indiana Jones" movie at the box office and I had to watch a whole sub-section of people hate it even more because it dared to beat the mighty Indy, whilst also hating Indy because they were always going to hate it anyway. Hilarious.

Not many movies manage to be clever or raise a wry smile with the production company logo at the beginning, but this one does, as they use the vintage 20 Century Fox logo from the sixties instead of the more flashy modern one. I should explain that this is done because this movie is a nostalgia piece, not only set in the sixties, but also filmed in the style of movies from that era, so the logo, along with us being informed that this is a "CinemaScope" picture, helps to add to the immersion. We're then dragged straight back out again by the title sequence, which is a load of animated bangs and whistles too spastic for me to go into in any great detal here. On the plus side, there's a really good swing-tune playing over the top, also called "Down With Love," which I assumed was written especially for this until I saw there's also a version by Judy Garland in there, performed by Michael Buble (or as my uncle likes to call him, "Mickey Bubble") and Holly Palmer. But the animation looks too modern to fit in with the stylistic theme they're going for. If you're going to make a nostalgia piece, you have to commit to it 100%, you can't half-arse it even slightly, which unfortunately is what I think they did here.

Following this, we're treated to a very lovely aerial shot of New York City. And this isn't me just assuming all American cities are New York City like I usually do, we're actually told in voice-over (by a man who somehow manages to pull off a period voice), that this is New York City, "The time: now, 1962! And there's no time or place like it! If you've gotta dream, this is the place to make that dream come true! That's why the souring populaion of hopeful dreamers has just reached eight million people! Oh, make that eight million... and one!" It at that point that Renee Zellweger, wearing a pink jacket and frankly terrifying hat emerges from the crowd with a smile on her face. After a few mildly amusing visual gags involving some Ban The Bomb protestors getting scared by a backfiring car, and Barbara Novak (Zellweger's character, I should probably point out) being unable to get in an elevator, we discover that she's written a book called, "Down With Love," detailing how she believes love is little more than a distraction preventing women from achieving their true potential. She meets up with her editor, a fabulous, chain-smoking woman by the name of Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson, who, if like me, you recongnised from her role in "Serenity" where she plays a hologram that's on-screen for less than five minutes, I think you'll agree we should all probably go outside and get some fresh air together), and then explains the concept of her book to the old men on "The Lion's Den," which I'm assuming is the board of directors. There's some good, rapid-fire dialogue here based around all the director's being identified by their initials ("O.K.'s can't make it, he's down with T.B." "Oh what a shame, is it serious?" "No, they're just having breakfast."), plus the air of casual sexism from that time is hamered home when the entire board asks Vikki to make them coffee, although I don't think this is the most sexist thing in this scene, I think that belongs to Barbara stating that in her book, she encourages women to fight off carnal urges so that they can eventually experience sex like men by... eating lots of chocolate. I know there's actually science backing that up, but come on now. I also think the board, who are all fusty old men let's not forget, take being told that they're little more than an annoyance that needs to be done away with a little too well. But still, as a fan of economic character development, I like this scene, because in under ten minutes we already know the motivation for and inhabit the head-space of one of our main characters. We also get a funny introduction to what will be the conflict of this film when one of the board members tells Barbara that she may have been able to pull this off in Maine, where all the men are gentlemen, but she'll have trouble doing the same in Manhatten, where he say, "The men are devious! They're dangerous! They'll be coming at you from every angle (Lord does this looks siniser written down...)! When you're watching you're front, they'll attack from your rear (I ain't touching that one)(well... you know what I mean)! And when you're protecting your rear, They'll drop out of the sky!" Which leads us to...

... a shot of a helicoptor! Genius! And who should be in that helicoptor but the fantastically named Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), flanked by at least three beautiful women, who exits the 'coptor by climbing down the dropladder whilst it's still airbourne and landing on the roof of a buliding. That's how I want to arrive at my next school reunion, I've just decided. McGregor is also the perfect guy to cast in this role, a charming, dashing sort with a voice that causes bras to unhook themselves, not to mention that he's also handsome and has a boyish glint in his eye that you just know is going to be there even when he's in his sixties. I should think he's a bastard, but I also get the impression he's a right laugh and would be fun to have a pint with, so I can't.

As it turns out, Catcher is the star reporter for Know Magazine ("The Magazine For Men In The KNOW"), and would appear to be a constant headache for the magazine's owner, Peter McMannus (David Hyde Pierce, who's basically playing Niles here, as he often does, but he's so good at it and I enjoy watching him work so much that I forgive him), the son of it's creator, who's therapist says resents Catcher because he's "A self-made man, as opposed to the son of a self-made man." He fires Catcher for not delivering his story on hidden Nazis like he was supposed to the day before, only for Catcher to reveal that he was somehow able to mix business with pleasure and find Nazis hidden in Florida helping NASA put America on The Moon. So he gets to bed three showgirls, discover secret Nazis working within his own government, and then convince one of said showgirls to type up the story for him? With all dur respect to Danial Craig, why wasn't Ewan McGregor cast as James Bond again? It's also here that you realise just how good this movie is with it's handling of verbal humour, when Catcher's secretary listens into he and Peter discussing socks, only for it to sound like they're discussing... something that sounds like "socks" ("What would you say is the average length for most men?" "How would I know? D'you think I spend all my time in the locker room or the club looking around making a comparative study?" "Let me see your again... we can measure, I'll get a ruler." "Better make it a yard stick!").

In a cab leaving the publishers, Barbara is furious that the board has no intention of promoting her book. So I guess they weren't too pleased after all. God, Renee Zellweger's cute when she's angry. I feel weird talking about the looks of the women in a film that's all about gender roles and sexism, but I just spent an entire paragraph going on about how great Ewan McGregor is, so I think everything evens itself out. Sarah Paulson's a vision in this movie as well, which I think might be the point, to have these two gorgeous women, one incredibly handsome man and, um, David Hyde Pierce, strut through this movie looking incredible so that the sometimes barbed subject matter can slip down unnoticed. A spoonful of sugar and all that. Vikki tells Barbara not to worry as she has a plan based around her desire to get publicity from as many places as possible, including places she'll mostly be seen by men, meaning an interview with... Know Magazine! Say, I wonder who will be put in charge of this story? Actually, they don't even bother dragging that little "mystery" out, as Vikki says she's arranged for Catcher to write the story mere seconds later, only for us to cut to another cab to see Catcher refusing to do it, saying he has no interest in interviewing "a New England, man-hating, spinster librarian." Well, when you put it like that, it doesn't sound like such an attractive prospect. Peter practically begs him to do it, as he was asked to set up the story by Vikki, who he really likes. When Catcher tells him to get someone else to do it, Peter responds, "The best thing I have to offer a woman is the best thing you have to offer a woman... you." I had to rewind this scene back twice to get the meaning of that line, which either means it's confusing, or devilishly clever. I'll be kind and go with the second option.

After Vikki takes Barbara to her new apartment (which is so sixties-ish I feel ashamed of describing my bedroom as such just because I've painted the walls orange), she recieves a call from Catcher, who has of course changed his mind. They arrange to meet up at The Mahogoney Lounge, where Catcher and Peter already are. Of course things can't go according to plan, that wouldn't be anywhere near screwball enough, so they don't- whilst Peter has excused himself, Catcher sneaks off with a British flight attendant called Gwendolyn (Jeri Ryan... yes, Trekkies, Seven-Of-Nine is in this), explaining to Barbara by telephone that he had to leave when, "a little english foxhound came in and started nuzzling me." I'm not entering into the minefeild that is refering to women as dogs (although the script does, by having Barbara ask Catcher how "the bitch" is now), all I'll say is they arrange to meet up at dinner instead, where he promptly flakes out on her again, this time with a "French Poodle that isn't ready to go in yet." Barbara gives him a little bit of advice, that being that is he "puts a little twig in her bottom, she'll remember why she went out with you in the first place."

...

... Can I have a moment, please?

...

...

... Okay, I'm good.

Catcher's ruse is eventually discovered when Barbara overhears the two flight attentants realising they've both been had (figuratively and literally, I suppose) by Catcher, just when he calls to cancel again, this time over breakfast. To be honest, the fact that Barbara was taken in by this at all makes me think less of her character, and also doesn't really make sense when something is revealed later in the movie, but I am, as ever, getting ahead of myself. So Catcher tries to sell her another line of canine-based bullshit, and she in not so many words tells him to fuck off, before storming out of the restaurant with Vikki and leaving Peter looking like he's about to kill himself.

Barbara is taken to a bookshop to discover that they have only one copy of her book on sale. She and Vikki decide they need to get more publicity for the book so more copies will be brought in (didn't they already know they needed to do this? Was getting in Know Magazine the only plan they had?), so they make the only logical decision that can be made, namely trying to get it on The Ed Sullivan show. I love movie logic. Actually I'll give them credit, they realise how silly a notion this is by having Barbara ask how exactly they get a book on a talk show, a problem Vikki solves by having Judy Garland appear, singing the title song from the opening credits. This is straying dangerously close to Meta Outta Nowhere, folks... Of course, their plan is a total success, and now the book is selling like hotcakes, seemingly all over the world (there are cutaways to places such as Britain, China and Russia, which seem to be represented by the same shop front redecorated to look just stereotypical enough to leave you in no doubt as to where you're supposed to be).

With the success of her book, Barbara becomes something of a celebrity, and Catcher finally gets a good look at her thanks to a cardboard cut out. Realising she's not the unattractive spinster he thought she was, he now finds himself desperate to meet her, getting Peter to attempt to set up the interview again, only for her to gleefully keep turning him down, then taking it one step further by describing Catcher on live television as a man who "changes women as often as he changes shirts," ruining his lovelife and, essentially, his life. So finally, over half-an-hour into the film, we get the major drive of the plot going, which is that Catcher is now motivated to expose Barbara as a sham by getting her to fall in love with him, agree to marry him, and writing about it for the magazine. He seems to have made this decision at the right time, because Barbara is now at the place where, as she puts it, she can't even get picked up by a taxi driver, instead spending her nights at home alone eating chocolate. I know I've written this before, but I really can relate to this.

From here you realise how clever the movie's been with it's plotting, because Catcher uses his contacts to find out where Babara goes and what she does on a daily basis, making sure that he'll be in her local dry-cleaners at the same time she is. When she's standing next to him, at first I wondered why she wasn't freaking out and yelling at him, but then you remember that they've never physically met, they've just spoken on the phone, and as such Barbara has no idea what Catcher looks like (or so we think...), which allows him to assume the identity of Major Zip Martin, Astronaut, and catch her interest by pretending he has no idea who she is. McGregor's southern American accent is terrible, but I think that might be intentional, even though the one he attempted in "Big Fish" wasn't much better, and that definitely wasn't intentional.

Barbara takes the bait hook, line and sinker, and is soon inviting him back to her place so that they can "get to know each other," to see "what they have in common... and what they have that's different." I'm actually amazed at how dirty this movie is. We're just under fourty minutes in and the main female lead is so out-of-her-mind horny that she's practically throwing herself at someone she's just met (not to mention that there's been at least one obvious anal sex gag). "Zip" turns her down, saying that he couldn't get to know her "All-The Way Better" until he's got to know her enough in the first place, leading to her asking him out for a drink, using her urges against her and tricking her into taking him out on a date.

We briefly re-enter the Peter/Vikki subplot when Catcher, spotting Vikki having a seemingly disasterous date with a football player (and after making a few droll "passes" puns), encourages Peter to go over to her on the basis that she doesn't hate him yet, but she will when he publishes the Novak story. I'll say that nobody plays "lovably pathetic," like David Hyde Pierce, as he demonstrates by at first strutting over to Vikki all cool, before it melts away and he ends up asking her, "Are you in love with that football player?" in a manner that makes him sound like he's about to cry. She tells him she's not, because it turns out the guy was only interested in her professionally, wanting to slip her his manuscript and not his tongue. "The men who resent my success won't give me the time of day, and the men who respect it won't give me the time of night," she complains, causing Peter to tell her he'll respect and resent her all day and all night long, which as pick-up lines go is at least original. And oddly, it works, which seems a little abrupt and out of left-field, but at the same time heart-warming. I guess secretly we all want the average-at-best looking guy to succeed with somebody way out of their league. It gives us all hope.

So Barbara and "Zip" start dating, as illustrated by one of those old-time montages that includes shots of them walking through the dark as neon signs float around. This is probably the most authentic nostalgia imagery in the film, but it's difficult to take seriously at this point because it's been parodied so mercilessly in so many different places. I had one from "The Simpsons" playing through my head the whole time I was watching it. But at the very least it does an effective job of showing that they're growing closer with minimum effort and time. And in a nice twist, it would appear that Catcher is the one falling in love, as the next thing we see is him staring lovingly at some photo booth pictures of the two of them. This doesn't cause him to take his head out of the game, though, as he has a private investigator go to Maine and dig around in Barbara's past, believing that a man must have really hurt her to cause her to believe the things she now does.

In the meantime, Peter is spazzing out preparing a meal for Vikki that'll be good enough so he can make his "big move," calling Catcher to his apartment to try his sauce (MINDS. GUTTER. OUT.). Catcher is confused as to why he's putting all this effort in, and also why he's waited this long to make a move, as most "Down With Love" girls are, ahem, open to a move being made after the first date. Peter's response? "These "Down With Love" girls may be used to having sex like a man, but I'm not." I've decided, I love this character. There was a time when I would have related to him enough to have his poster up on my wall. They also address Catcher's situation with Barbara, Peter claiming that Catcher's claim that he's trying to get her to not want to have sex with him as an excuse to hide that he really likes spending time with her.

We then have the funniest and lewdest moment in the film, that makes genius use of the splt-screen effect they've been using sparringly throughout. We see both Barbara and "Zip" talking on the phone, every so often something will happen to make it appear like they're doing... things to each other, such as "Zip" turning to the side and undoing his towel just as Barbara has got down on her hands and knees to pick somehing up. I don't think I have to explain what it looks like they're doing. There's also a bit, once the split has switched to a verical line, where she's lying on her front and he decided to start doing some sit-ups (as you do when you're on the phone), so that his head disappears into her groinal area. I'm not going to lie, they're obvious sight gags, and we've seen variations of them a mllion times before, such as in the "Austin Powers" movies, but here they feel a little bit cleverer, as they're used to visually represent the sexual frustration the pair are feeling. He invites her round "his" place to eat a meal "he's" cooked, which it turns out is actually Peter's place and is the meal Peter cooked, as Catcher has offered him the chance to use his apartment for the night in an attempt to really impress Vikki. "So, you'd like to come?" He asks her. "Oh... yes... yes..." she answers. He's doing push-ups on top of her by this point. Then he thanks her for being so flexible, and they both start smoking a cigarette. Amazing.

The meal goes well, with "Zip" continuing his masterful teasing, leaning in close, talking about how, as an astronaut, he sometimes wished he had something hot to sink his teeth into, before casually walking away. Smooth operator, this guy. She compliments "his" house, saying it's refreshing to find a place not loaded up with every gadget custom-made to try and get a woman in the sack. This is of course the exact moment we cut back to Peter in Catcher's real apartment, where everything is operated by little switches, confusing the shit out of him, leading to him pressing the wrong button and basically attacking Vikki with an electronic sofa bed. That thing does look cool. ALl things considered, he recovers from this well, but then drops the ball by saying he must have drunk too much Sherry whilst cooking. This impresses Vikki, as she says no man has ever cooked for her before, and that she's famished. OH NO! BUT THE MEAL IS OVER AT HIS REAL APARTMENT, AND CATCHER IS ABOUT TO SERVE IT TO BARBARA! WHATEVER SHALL HE DO?! Well, actually, things don't go as crazy as I was expecting. I was expecting him to run back to his apartment and demand the meal he cooked be returned to him, but instead he just says he was cookng for Catcher's apartment for him. Bit of a missed opertunity there I feel, but it's more than made up for by Peter seemingly setting the house to "Attack Mode," where once again the sofa bed turns hostile and the record player starts spitting albums at them. It's like a kinder, fluffier version of "Poltergist."

Back at Peter's apartment, things seem to be going better for "Zip and Barbara, as the meal has been eaten, their shoes have been kicked off, and we here them talking in a vaguely sexual manner as low saxophone music plays in the background. He asks if he's got it in the, "right spot," to which she responds in a breathy voice, "Almost..." They're going to be arm-wrestling, aren't they? As it turns out, she's looking through a telescope up at the stars. That's a new one. Watching her looking at the stars, looking all adorable, Catcher's resolve seems to be fading, even though she still seems to have enough control over hers. Rededicating hiself, he finally says the words that she's been waiting for him to say for a long time, that being that he's ready to go to bed, to which she hastily agrees... only for him to then start calling her a taxi. HA! PSYCHE! As it turns out, it backfires in a spectacular way, as Barbara now decides that she can't be with "Zip," because she's starting to develop feelings for him, leaving Catcher with no choice but to plant one right on her lips, as the grandious music swells. Along with other things I assume (what is wrong with me during this review? I swear I've come down with Double Entendre's Syndrome or something...). She then agrees, weakly, to give him one more chance, before picking up the nearest bowl containing chocolate and making off with it.

Catcher later returns to his apartment to find an infestation has taken place, not of rats, but rather of something worse- Beatniks. God, one of them's got an acoustic guitar. Where's John Belushi when you need him? Catcher finds Peter sitting in his bar cross-legged like some white, thin, beret-and-sunglases-wearing Buddah, and not unreasonably asks him what's going on. Peter explains that he took Vikki uptown to a coffee-house, and when the place got raided he just moved the party back to Catcher's apartment. Far from being annoyed, Catcher seems very amused by the whole thing. Seriously, for all his flaws, he seems like a pretty cool friend. And his mood improves even more when he spies a woman walking around wearing her hair like a T-Shirt. "After being grounded for 24 days, the Astronaut is ready to blast off," he announces. I've figured out what the dialogue in this movie reminds me of- a "Carry On" film. A smarter-than-average "Carry On" film, but a "Carry On" film all the same.

And then, OH NO, BARBARA IS HERE! I was wondering when they were going to get to the reveal, I think there's only just over half an hour left of runtime left. Turns out Vikki invited her, and instructs her to "throw your coat on the bed and join in the bash." So she heads to THE SAME BEDROOM CATCHER HEADED TO WITH BEATNIK HAIR BRA WOMAN! They're fumbling around on the bed, but because it's dark, she cant immediately see who it is, and due to her being an enlightened 20th century "Down With Love" woman, she's not all that shocked by what she finds, just tossing her coat on the bed saying, "Catch!"

To which Catcher responds, "Yes?"

Wadda maroon.

She leaves in disgust, with Catcher... "Zip"... whoever in hot pursuit. To be honest I would have at least asked why this supposedly southern man just spoke to me in a Scottish accent before I got out of there. Amazingly, he manages to somehow win her back over with tales of being called to the apartment by... himself to do a NASA cover story, only to then be drugged by some wacky-tobbacy and seduced. Still doesn't explain the Scottish accent, pal. His thinking-on-the-fly skills are commendable, though. Tiring of pussy-footing around, and also probably of hearing Barbara talk about how much of a snake Catcher/he is, he finally tells her that he loves her. And how's this for a loophole- Barbara tells him that she has absolutely no rules against men falling in love with her. Atta girl. Sticking the knife in, he says it's possible for him to make heartfelt, passionate love to her whilst she has meaningless sex with him, which she very reluctantly agrees with. This gets a proud salute from the doorman. Me as well.

Things don't stay on a high for long, though, as Vikki ends up getting fired by T.B. due to the fact that Barbara's book has ruined his relatioship with his mistress. The next scene is her sitting in Barbara's apartment with all her stuff next to her in a cardboard box, where they both finally admit that neither of them are truly "Down With Love" girls anymore, having both fallen in love with the respective men in their lives. A mirroring scene with the guys sets the scene for what will surely be the home-stretch of the movie, with both of them having their make-or-break nights at the same time. Following a mildly tittilating scene (that probably would have been absolutely scandalous in the sixties, like much of this movie would have, come to think of it) of Barbara getting ready for the night, and a thankfully much less tittilating one of Catcher getting ready (both soundtracked by two different versions of "Fly Me To The Moon," which I thought was a nice touch), they meet up and go back to Catcher's apartment.

At the same time, Peter and Vikki are having their night out at a Chinese restaurant, with him looking so guilty about what's going down tonight that you'd think he killed a man. Actually, why hasn't anyone ever casted David Hyde Pierce as a serial killer? I'd totally buy him as one, and I mean that as a compliment. We then finally get the big screwball moment, with Vikki telling his she knows why he's so guilty. I thought I knew where this was going, that he'd accidently spill the beans to her over conversation and she'd be all appalled and run off to save her friends, but as it turns out she believes he's gay and secretly in love with Catcher, based on him cooking for him and the fact that he has a picture of Catcher's parents in "his" apartment. It's a little bit of a stretch, but I guess it might not have been for the sixties. It does throw into question why she's so willing to marry him, though. I mean, who would willingly want to enter into a loveless, sexless marriage? She then goes all META OUTTA NOWHERE by saying she originally convinced herself that he switched pads with Catcher to impress her like in some "zany sex comedy," which leads to Peter blurting out that he did and then reveal the real reason he's so guilty. So in the end we reached the destination I was expecting, but we got there via a slightly different route. Well done for switching things up a little bit.

I'm a little bit sad in the knowledge that Barbara and "Zip's" fun is about to be broken up, because they seem to be having a whale of a time. They even use that funky sofa-bed properly, which makes me want one even more than I did before. His plan's working out too, as he's getting her to say all the things he wanted her to, and getting them on record too, when OH NO! HERE COMES SEVEN-OF-NINE AGAIN! She bursts in, finds him and Barbara at it, drops his name a few times so that there'd be no doubting in Barbara's mind that this is Catcher Block she's with, and then promply leaves. She may as well have been wearing a sign that said, "PLOT DEVICE" around her neck. Catcher stands revealed, gloats about his victory...

... and this is where things get... screwy. I'm not going to attempt to describe what happened next, I'm going to let Barbara's words do that for me...

"I'm not gonna storm out of here, Catch. And I'm not gonna admit that you got Barbara Novak to fall in love... because I'm not Barbara Novak. There is no Barbara Novak. And I didn't fall in love with Zip Martin, I fell in love with Catcher Block. And that was a year ago, when for three-and-a-half weeks I worked as your secretary. I don't expect you to remember me, I wasn't a blonde then, but you did ask me out, and it broke my heart to say no, but I loved you too much. I couldn't bare to become just another notch in your bedpost. With your dating habits I knew even if I was lucky enough to get a regular spot on your rotating schedule, I would never have your undivided attention long enough for you to fall in love with me. I knew I had to do something, to set myself apart. I knew I had to quit my job as your secretary, and write an international bestseller controversial enough to get the attention of a New York publisher, as well as Know Magazine, but insignificant enough that if I went unseen, Know Magazine's star journalist would refuse to do a cover story about it. I knew that every time we were supposed to meet, you'd get distracted by one of your many girlfriends and stand me up, and this would give me a reason to fight with you over the phone, and declare that I wouldn't meet with you for 100 years. And then all I would have to do was be patient, and wait the two or three weeks it would take everyone in The World to buy a copy of my bestseller, and then I would begin to get the publicity I would need for you to 1) see what I look like, and 2) see me denounce you in public as the worst kind of man. I knew that this would make you want to get even by writing one of your exposes, and in order to do that, you would have to go undercover, assume a false identity, and would pretent to be the kind of man who would make the kind of girl I was pretending to be fall in love. I knew since I was pretending to be a girl who'd have sex on the first date, you'd have to pretend to be a man who wouldn't have sex for several dates, and in doing so, we would go out on lots of dates, to all the best places and all the hit shows, until finally, one night, you would take me back to your place, you'd pretend it was someone elses, in order to get all the evidence you needed to write your expose. By seducing me. Until I said I love you. But saying "I love you" was also my plan. I just wanted to tell you the truth so that when you heard me say "I love you" you'd know that I knew who you were and you'd know who I was. And you, the great Catcher Block would know, that you'd been beaten at your own game. By me, Nancy Brown, your former secretary, and I would have once and for all set myself apart from all the other girls you've known. All those other girls that you've never really cared about, by making myself someone, like the one person you really loved and admired above all others- you. And when you realised you had finally met your match, I would have at last gained the respect that would make you wanna marry me first, and seduce me later. I just wanted you to hear all this from me before you hear it from you private eye."

I... I don't know what... to say. So, the entire film, the book, the battle of the sexes, the empowering women and making them realise they can do more with their live all that was a plan to... get a man to notice her?

There's not a big enough WAT in The World for all this. I mean, go back and read that again. Read it a couple of time, I'm not going anywhere. According to that, she planned... everything. She's a Bond villian. No, she's more than that, she's practically a... God. I honestly don't know how I feel about this, it's either genius operating on a level few can comprehend, myself included, or total, balls-out, writing-on-the-walls-with-your-own-shit insanity. And Catcher's reaction to all this is the same as mine, he's just staring at her with a look of complete open-mouthed confusion. I'll say one thing though, that little monologue showed what a good actress Renee Zellweger can be. Not only did she say all that with a completely straight face, but she managed to instill it with real convictions. There were moments when she looked and sounded like she was about to cry.

And get this- IT WORKED! He professes he's fallen in love with her, and wants to marry her, very possibly this second. However, Ms. Seven-Of-Nine-Plot-Device, who I can only think was listening in at the door the whole time, rushes in and starts gushing over Barbara (I should probably call her Nancy now, but I can't be bothered), telling her how much she's changed her life for the better, and she realises that she can't marry Catcher, as she would be letting down the millions of women she's become an inspiration to. So her greatest creation has become a curse she must now live with. All very shakesperian. Plus, she now claims out of nowhere that she doesn't really want what Catcher can offer har and has truly become a "Down With Love" girl.

So both our male leads or on the outs with the women in their lives, and dealing with it differently- Catcher trying to win back Barbara's affection with gifts, including Peter's telescope which he tells Catcher wasn't his to give, and Peter not knowing where he stands with Vikki, but not being able to turn her down everytime she shows up at his apartment, leaving him crying and feeling used. Peter tries to get Catcher to go back to his old ways, but he just doesn't have it in him anymore. Then Peter tells him something that changes his whole attitude to everything that's gone down- that thanks to him, Barbara has created a world full of women who act just like him, inspiring him to write an expose on himself, as well as the man falling in love has made him become. Surely this has to be enough, right? This is officially now the longest review I've ever written.

Nope. As it turns out, Know Magazine has be ground to a sand-still by all their secretaries leaving to gow work for Barbara at her Magazine, the imaginatively title Now Magazine ("The Magazine For Women In The Now").It wouldseem like she's well and truly won, and Catcher is shit out of luck. Except he has one more trick up his sleeve- he goes to her building and applies for a job as one of her secretaries. They exchange some more tricky dialogue, this time constantly using the words "now" and "know" without tripping up, which I'm frankly in awe of, and finally, finally wins her affections by convincing her that he's changed. He also gets her to reveal her teleportaton powers, as somehow she's in the elevator waiting for him. There's too more scenes during the credits, one a cute little epilogue to the Vikki/Peter subplot where they both agree to get married as long as they can continue their respective careers, and Catcher and Barbara doing a song-and-dance routine to publicise their new book, "Here's To Love."

Going into this, I was a little bit unconvinced that they'd be able to pull off a film that looks and feel like a sixties production, and in truth they don't really. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at (I'd go so far as to say it's one of the few romantic comedies that might be worth picking up on Blu-Ray), and the costume, make-up and hair are all incredible, but it feels just a bit too slick. And the tone really doesn't fit with what they're going for. I'm not a fan of judging old movies by the standards and attitudes of today, because most of them are like that elderly relative that shows up at family reunions- yes, he may say things that sound a little bit shocking every now and again, but he's from another time, he really doesn't know better. So making a movie that's an exercize in nostalgia and then applying modern sensibilities to it can run the risk of rendering the whole thing meaningless. Thankfully, and in many ways bafflingly, this hasn't happened here. It's a little too knowing and a lot too dirty-minded, but in many ways that just adds to the fun of it. And that's the best way to describe this movie- fun. The script's fun, the concept's fun, and the cast seem to be having the time of their lives. It's a movie with a big grin on it's face the whole way through, and male or female, if you don't get at least a little bit of a kick out of some of it, you're probably not mch fun to be around.

FINAL VERDICT

KEPT!

This is actually something of a landmark, the first time I've kept two movies in a row. I hope I'm not going soft. A horror movies featuring some cheerleaders next week, I feel.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is.

(also, I'm very proud of myself for going through this whole review without once using the word, "Romcom")(except here)(which doesn't count)(because I say so)

6 comments:

Rachel Tamed said...

Renee Zellweger has a strange effect on me. Upon seeing her in any film my immediate desire is to either a) gain 20 pounds and develop an accent, or b) gouge my eyes out. Even though I love Ewan McGregor to bits, she kind of killed this movie for me just be existing.

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

I've always loved Renee Zellweger, ever since "Jerry Maguire." The fact that she's really skinny these days doesn't bother me, she's just got somethig about her, in my opinion.

I actually had a massive rant in there aout body-obsession and things like that, but I took it out because this thing was already running incredibly long.

Leeann H said...

I hated the trailer for this film when it first came out, and still think it's fitting that you got it for 50p...

Maybe I sound biased, but I can't stand chick-flicks. I went to see 300 at the same time Because I Said So came out. 300, to my bemusement, was a wiser choice.

Insults said...

Brilliant. You really love films. I want to hug you.

Da_Bill said...

Great review - I'm glad someone else enjoyed this film as much as me. Sometimes a little cheese is just what you need and it's probably one of the best, most ludicrous twists I've seen in a movie. Plus, it's proof that it is possible for a Romcom to be cheesy without being sickeningly sweet.

jeffrey said...

Rachel Tamed, I think you're suffering from the Bridget Jones Syndrome. My fiance shares the same sentiments.

I was tempted to lambast this movie (as a manly man who would never watch a chick flick... in public, that is), but I realized, even though I rented it once, last year, for... you guessed it... Valentines Day, I never really watched it all the way through. I was umm... *coughs* preoccupied... And I umm... am grateful for this movie for giving me the opportunity to be umm... preoccupied.

But that's not really true... "Love Actually" is a movie I really enjoyed, it's probably the quintessential chick flick. And like "Down With Love", the first time I rented it, I became umm... preoccupied as well. But I received it as a gift and have watched it all the way through several times now. Nice flick. I think I'll watch "Down With Love" all the way through one day. Probably on the second or third base... I mean try! Ha... I meant "try"... really.