Film review - Isn't it Romantic
Todd Strauss-Schulson's Isn't it Romantic is one of the few Netflix original movies that is actually - and bear with me here, you may need to sit down - good.
This mildly clever satire isn't exactly on the same level as, say, a Roma - but after I sat through Bird Box, sadly unable to close my eyes, last year, I'll take what I can get.
And as the title would suggest, this particular satire satirises the romantic-comedy: a beloved genre so full of cliches to be mocked, tropes to be dismantled and (absolutely fabulous) Gay-Best Friends to be poked with a stick that it was ripe for reaping, even if certain cliches are often embraced as opposed to demolished.
Once we get past the standard set-up (girl hate Rom-Com; hit head; trap in Rom-Com; hijinks; profit), the ensuing narrative is also pretty standard (boy meets girl; boy likes girl; things happen; profit). But that is also the point. The point is to constantly poke every trope, cliche and badly-drawn character archetype in the book until they burst: and though more, hypothetically, could have been done; what has, ultimately, been done does work.
Brandon Scott Jones plays the fabulously-flamboyant and flamboyantly-fabulous gay-best friend incredibly well, nailing every single little cliche (down to that screeching voice) that comes his way: for he is the quintessential personification of the Pride-flag, and I love/hate it.
At the centre of this film, however, is Rebel Wilson's absolutely bewildered, but oddly endearing, performance. Her character arc is certainly flawed and I feel the emotional core is emotionally hollow (like all Rom-Coms really are, let's not beat-around-the-bush), but Wilson Rebels against the norm, bringing a unique sass and immediate charisma to a character you cannot help but root for, and envy (who doesn't want their own automated censor bar: I could *********** curse all I *********** wanted), and love.
For it is love, and true love, that fuels the fire of love and endearment that is this movie ... just kidding, the vast majority of it is cynical as ****. But while certain rom-com cliches bleed in towards the end (it is, in many ways, a classic fairytale ending), the cynicism is the fuel that keeps the fire of mockery burning.
Many elements do feel very pandering, but its heart is in the right place. Quoting the immortal phrase "I'll have what she's having" is either a fitting homage or absolutely immoral pandering: and your reaction to that line is my recommendation for this movie.
Everything within is clearly built out of love and not spite. And in that sense, love actually is - for lack of a better, less sappy, phrase - the heart of the story.
The best parodies and spoofs and satires come from a place of adulation for the craft they're about to demolish with a wrecking ball: and I see nothing but love for this genre here. To answer the titular question (and to paraphrase Leonard Maltin, for the 1948 romance Isn't it Romantic?): "nah". But it isn't meant to be.
To further quote him, for a different movie (Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed), "it is what it is" - and for me, it was enough.