Despite all the naysayers out there, I think The Matrix Reloaded was just as...what? Huh? What do you mean I still haven't seen Reloaded yet! Well then what the hell did I go see this weekend? DOWN WITH LOVE?!? Oh yeah..hmm..that's right.
20th Century Fox Presents
A CinemaScope Production
The Place: New York City
The Time: The Present (1962)
Sweet Maine librarian Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger) has moved to New York City in anticipation of the publishing of her new feminist book “Down With Love.” Novak argues that in order for women to gain equality in the workplace they must first gain equality in the bedroom. Women need to abstain from sex until they quit worrying about love and marriage and are able to start enjoying sex the way a man does: a la carte. This of course doesn’t sit well with the males of the world, most especially ladies man, man’s man, and man about town Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor). Block sets out to get Barbara to fall in love with him and expose that she’s just like other women and all she wants is a nice man to settle down with.
This film is a delightful send-up of the three Doris Day-Rock Hudson-Tony Randall sex comedies of the 1960s (Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers), Tony Randall even shows up as the head of the publishing company. There seems to be a few of these “let’s rehash the old school” movies that have come out recently, but where Far From Heaven was utterly serious in using the style of Douglas Sirk, and Austin Powers just went completely over the top with a scatological take on the James Bond/Matt Helm movies, Down With Love takes a series of films that were just nice goofy cotton candy, and turns them into, well, a nice goofy cotton candy movie.
This movie is fluff, and I loved every minute of it.
The filmakers were able to almost perfectly recreate the look and feel of the old comedies, from the bold and colorful fashions (including a bathing suit that tastefully covers up Zellweger’s belly button), the crappy looking rear-projection when two characters are speaking in a car, and even the split-screens and wipes that were omnipresent in Pillow Talk. I cackled with glee every time the massive Pan Am building was shown dominating the city skyline.
The much of comedy comes from the rapid-fire verbal exchanges between the characters, they earn their laughs the way teams like Abbot and Costello did, by taking the language to its absurdist heights. I mean how can you not like something that has dialogue like this when the scheming and lying has reached it’s zenith: “I'm taking her to your place which she still thinks is my place by saying the guy she thinks I am who acts like you has a meeting there with you and the guy who she still doesn't know I really am.”
Silly? You bet!
I of course never saw any Doris Day films when they were originally released, but I think Renée Zellweger captures the part fairly well, she has that conniving girl next door quality about her. David Hyde Pierce plays Catcher Block’s boss/best friend as a slightly less foppish Niles Crane, which is essentially perfect for the role, giving this all the nebbishy qualitites that Tony Randall gave the originals. But it is Ewan McGregor who completely owns this movie. I could never buy Rock Hudson as a ladies man (this probably makes sense), so Ewan’s performance blows his out of the water. He’s just so sleek and suave in his houndstooth jacket and sunglasses, juggling all his ladies with the utmost cool.
I can’t go without mentioning Marc Shaiman’s score for the film, which is so lounge-y and bouncy that its almost a parody of the originals. It manages to make most of the jokes in the film feel even more winking and absurd. Shaiman also wrote “Here’s to Love” a song and dance number that McGregor and Zellweger perform over the closing credits. Seriously, I’m going to go buy this soundtrack.
I have a weakness for sheer goofiness in my films. I revel in the cheese. I search for that cockeyed optimism that most films today are unwilling to give the audience. You might not like this movie, I sure as hell did.