Film Reviews

DOWN WITH LOVE

By • May 16th, 2003 •

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Fox 2000 and Regency Enterprises in association with Mediastream III a Jinks/Cohen Co. production
Running time — 94 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

Appallingly terrible from start to finish.

“Forced choice” for me: (1) Sit through DOWN WITH LOVE again, (2) Sit through TIL HUMAN VOICES WAKE US again, (3) Spend two hours with Uday Hussein.

Hands down, I’d take my chances with Uday.

DOWN WITH LOVE immediately insults me. The first words uttered are by screeching editor Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson) to first-time author Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger): “You’re gorgeous!” I know Zellweger is sick and tired of hearing that she is “cute,” however, it is up to the director to show us that Zellweger is gorgeous and let us come to that conclusion ourselves. We do not need him telling us. I’m sure it made Zellweger happy that the stage is set for her gorgeousness, but isn’t her salary happiness enough? Her job is to make the audience happy, not for us to, in obeisance, acknowledge her beauty.

Barbara Novak has written a book advocating women take charge of their lives, forget about love and marriage, and go out for sex. Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) is the suave, debonair English writer for an influential men’s magazine. Nobody in the publishing business happens to know what Block, an infamous man-about-town, looks like. Block intends to trick Novak into falling in love with him thereby proving her anthem is pure fantasy. He’ll write a cover story on besting Novak’s ode to female empowerment. Of course, this means pretending to be a nerd from the South with a really lousy accent but graceful, beautiful body.

This is an idea gone terribly, terribly wrong. They wanted to make another 60s Rock Hudson/Doris Day romantic comedy but chose two actors who don’t bother connecting with each other. These two are in different movies. This is clearly the fault of the director, Peyton Reed, who awkwardly stages all his actors in every scene and has them prance around. Ewan McGregor might look good in a tuxedo but he doesn’t look comfortable. Do we really need more than one Ewan bare-chested scene? Zellweger just changes clothes and allows Paulson to gush all over her. There’s absolutely no sexual charge between Zellweger and McGregor. They actually seemed repulsed by each other. And why, at their initial “cute” meeting, is Ewan’s dark brown hair suddenly red? I have to say DOWN WITH LOVE might actually kill Ewan’s chances for more romantic lead roles.

Peter MacMannus (David Hyde Pierce) is Block’s best friend and boss. He’s a high-strung buffoon who is completely uncomfortable around women. His character is so unfunny and embarrassing that I had to look away. I felt sorry for Hyde Pierce. He must really need the money. Paulson rounds out this loathsome foursome with some dignity. She is the only one who appears to be enjoying herself and happy to be in a movie.

And this is what is wrong, so wrong, with DOWN WITH LOVE. It’s a romantic comedy where nobody is enjoying themselves. It should be the rule of comedy. Enjoy yourself and the audience will.

The story lacks the single important ingredient: charm. All the actors were told to do was walk funny and make faces. There’s a really humiliating scene where Renee “swans” into her living room in lingerie and dances in front of her penthouse windows. This is the type of thing that is risky and when it doesn’t work, it’s dreadful. When it works, its Cameron Diaz dancing on top of her bed in white underpants and then getting $20 million to reprise it in the sequel.

The stick up Renee’s butt registers pain on her face, so maybe asking her to act would be deemed cruel and unusual punishment. Thank goodness Renee snared CHICAGO. Why this movie was released is best left to film historians to dope out.


Cast:
Barbara Novak: Renee Zellweger
Catcher Block: Ewan McGregor
Vicki Hiller: Sarah Paulson
Peter McMannus: David Hyde Pierce
Gladys: Rachel Dratch
Maurice: Jack Plotnick
Theodore Banner: Tony Randall

Credits:
Director: Peyton Reed
Screenwriters: Eve Ahlert & Dennis Drake
Producers: Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks
Executive producers: Paddy Cullen, Arnon Milchan
Director of photography: Jeff Cronenweth
Production designer: Andrew Laws
Costume designer: Daniel Orlandi
Editor: Larry Bock
Music: Marc Shaiman

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