Rebel Wilson's new comedy, “Isn’t It Romantic,” had a rocky beginning. The 38-year-old actress (“Pitch Perfect,” “How to Be Single”) caught some backlash a few months ago for making comments that she was the first ever plus-size woman to lead a romantic comedy. As a result, people were quick to point out that actresses like Queen Latifah, Melissa McCarthy and Ricki Lake were rom-com stars well before Wilson, an error for which she subsequently apologized.
So, going to see “Isn’t It Romantic” already held intrigue: What was so specific about the film and Wilson’s role that made her make that claim to begin with?
I guess the answer, which trailers and promos for the film were totally forthcoming about, was that “Isn’t It Romantic” is a rom-com making fun of rom-coms. It’s half parody and half actual storytelling, a narrative that director Todd Strauss-Schulson called “a romantic comedy about falling in love with yourself.”
I understood the premise; I respected the idea. Rom-coms are back on the rise (mostly thanks to Netflix), but it’s a much different world out there than when Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez were trying to claw their men out of the hands of other women. For one, the fourth-wave feminist-driven society we’re living in now may not stand for the damsel in distress or girl-next-door tropes that have been so widely used in the past; likewise, there’s a much larger emphasis on self-love and female independence nowadays that the boy-gets-girl storyline seems a bit cavalier now.
Personally, I’m not of those opinions. Romantic comedies are perfect for what they are: a bit of a break from the sometimes bleak reality outside our television screens. Should they tell a more complex story of female empowerment and exhibit more realistic, non-stereotypical metaphors? Well, sure -- there are a lot of people who will be on board with that, but there’s probably an equal number of people that want to live in a fantasy, wondrous, love-ridden world.
This is the springboard conflict of “Isn’t It Romantic.” While Wilson’s character, architect Natalie, has been primed from a young age to despise rom-coms and their themes, her co-worker Whitney spends her workdays blissfully watching “The Wedding Singer.” Thus begins a monologue by Natalie about exactly what parts of rom-coms are so ridiculous. The plot goes on for Natalie to knock herself unconscious and wake up in a romantic comedy, cursing the flower-boxed windows of an imaginary downtown Manhattan and background soundtrack (which included multiple renditions of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” obviously).
Like I said, I knew what was coming plot-wise from this film. What I didn’t expect was just how much Wilson was going to hit her audience over the head with what she was doing. She basically narrates every stereotype that comes her way throughout the film, almost like the writers didn't trust viewers to catch the little unrealistic movie moments they were poking fun at.
An example: Natalie rides through New York (if you didn’t think this film was going to be set in New York, you’re not paying attention) over the Manhattan bridge in a typical pan-out montage complete with uplifting music. Upon reaching her destination, she straight-up verbalizes that she was only on the move for 18 seconds -- how could she be there already?!
You’re getting what you came for in this film, which is an overly-done parody meant to point out why rom-coms shouldn’t be substituted for real life. Wilson’s character lacks a bit of direction throughout, moving from making an in-your-face satire to a "love yourself" anthem to a genuinely cute story without much rhyme or reason. What saves face for the film, though, is Mr. Liam Hemsworth.
Newly wedded to Miley Cyrus, the younger Hemsworth (you know his brother Chris as Thor) makes an unexpectedly perfect comedic appearance in “Isn’t It Romantic.” In the past, we’ve seen him in uber-serious roles, from his Hollywood debut opposite Cyrus in “The Last Song” to playing the love-to-hate-him Gale in the “Hunger Games” films. “Isn’t It Romantic,” though, gave him two things: First, his role let him be super goofy and adorable; second, it let him use his natural Australian accent. There is a God.
Cyrus, who attended the film’s premiere last night in lieu of a hospitalized Hemsworth, wrote on her Instagram that Hemsworth “is the funniest person I know, and the world now gets to see the Liam I wake up to every day.” And thank goodness. Hemsworth is perfect as Wilson’s first (but not endgame, let me be clear) love interest in the movie, employing every overly-enthusiastic puppy love pigeonhole in the book to the highest, most entertaining degree.
Wilson told ET Canada, “Normally people that are so hot like that aren’t that funny. Turns out, he’s just such a legend and the funniest guy.” Brains and beauty, that one.
Hemsworth’s part, along with other supporting roles filled by Priyanka Chopra (bless) and Wilson’s BFF Adam Devine, was played in the way that I think writers wanted the whole movie to go: sweet, silly and parodied, but in a way that still left you feeling good about it.
Overall, though, “Isn’t It Romantic” is a charm of a film that you and your girl gang need to sit down for this week. Catch it as early as tomorrow.