Director(s): Todd Strauss-Schulson
Writer(s): Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman
Cinematography by: Simon Duggan
Editor(s): Andrew Marcus
Cast: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Jennifer Saunders and Brandon Scott Jones
I'm a fan of meta-storytelling or metanarrative; they can range from the highly experimental (Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain) to the genre-breaking and somehow genre-defining (Craven's Scream). This type of narrative can be an excellent vehicle for exploring what makes or breaks a genre and Isn't it Romantic has set out to tackle the rom-com genre, and for the most part, succeeds at satirizing the genre - despite not improving on it. Let's talk about it.
The story centers around Natalie (Wilson), despite her initial love for the rom-com films in her youth, she has grown to resent them for the unrealistic expectations and standards they set. After an accident in where she hits her head, she wakes up in a world where all the rom-com stereotypes are present and the only way to get out of this situation is by recreating the plot of a film; make a man fall in love with her. The core of the story is fun, and a great elevator pitch; a cynical woman inside an over the top rom-com, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired as by the end it plays as a straight rom-com forgoing the satire bite it started with. The jokes land more often than not, with Natalie's billionaire love interest, Blake (Hemsworth), being the funniest aspect of the film; and the gay best friend, Donny (Scott Jones) being the weakest aspect of the film. This creates a hit to miss ratio throughout the movie in where the unevenness of the quality of the jokes weights down of the runtime a bit - especially when the film telegraphs the ending five minutes in.
Quick note: I could've done without the musical elements, and so did my wife as she was somewhat onboard until it was brought into the fold.
Todd Strauss-Schulson does a solid job behind the camera, as he immerses his world in all the visual tropes of how rom-coms are shot. And cinematographer Simon Duggan paints them with the over-saturated brush rom-coms tend to have. The use of color in the set and costume design is terrific, and it creates a color palate pleasing to the eye. Rebel Wilson is good as the lead, even though she does fall into the same bits that made her famous in Pitch Perfect as Fat Amy. Adam Devine plays against type as the nice guy in the friend zone, and Liam Hemsworth is hilarious as the billionaire that knows quotes by heart and has an exaggerated Australian accent. Priyanka Chopra and Brandon Scott Jones are let down by their generic characters.
While it never reaches the heights of the best rom-coms or the best metanarrative movies, Isn't it Romantic is a nice entry into the genre it set out to satires. With a likable lead in Wilson, and a short runtime (1hr and 29min) this film provides a great option for moviegoers looking for some light-hearted entertainment. I would recommend waiting for it to hit a streaming service, but a matinee showing is a solid option as well. Metanarratives is why I love movies.
Isn't it Romantic is a Streamer!
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