Isn't It Romantic movie review: Rebel Wilson's 'rom-com' isn't self aware enough to pull off a parody of the genre

Devansh Sharma

Feb 28, 2019 16:58:53 IST


Todd-Strauss Schulson's anti-romantic comedy Isn't It Romantic, interestingly, does not have a question mark at the end of the title. The Warner Bros film, that has released on Netflix on 1 March, thus seems to ask you if it feels romantic, but is not seeking your approval in any way.

 Isnt It Romantic movie review: Rebel Wilsons rom-com isnt self aware enough to pull off a parody of the genre

Adam Levine, Rebel Wilson and Priyanka Chopra in a still from Isn't It Romantic. YouTube

This imposition of a romantic comedy on the audience is reflective of the predicament that the protagonist finds herself in during the film. Isn't It Romantic revolves around Natalie (Rebel Wilson), a New York-based architect and self-proclaimed critic of rom-coms, who gets transported into a romantic comedy after running into a steel post. When seen through a romantic lens, the situation appears to be similar to the Harry Potter franchise. Except here, the magic does not really help in penetrating the Platform 9 3/4 pillar. Also, unlike Harry who finds a home in Hogwarts, Natalie is not quite impressed to discover herself in a romantic comedy, a PG-13 one at that, which does not even let her shout expletives to her heart's content.

In many ways, Isn't It Romantic is riddled with the same cliches that it tries to poke fun at. It fails as a spoof of the romantic comedy genre since it looks at itself through rose-tinted glasses. One may argue that is the case because more than a spoof, the film is a celebration of rom-coms. In that case, it does not make an avid buff of the genre, like this writer, fall in love with rom-coms all over again. What it does achieve is in putting up an engaging affair that is pleasant as long as it lasts, and does not digress into cringe-worthy cacophonous medleys like crowd typical musicals that disguise themselves as romantic comedies.

A large part of the credit must be attributed to the technical team. The best part about John Debney's music is that it is limited. It is a very self aware move on his part to not overdo on that front since his songs are no earworms. Sharon Seymour's production design and Leah Katznelson's costume design are particularly commendable. The colour palette is devoid of gaudiness as the aesthetic of the film is full of muted tints. The frames never appear cluttered, which is the Achilles' heel of most romantic comedies.

The rather restrained treatment of the film comes across as a collective decision since the gaze is laced with both flattery and mockery. Simon Duggan's cinematography is decent and progresses to smart in a few scenes. One such instance is when Natalie realises she is trapped in a romantic comedy. Her moment of epiphany is accentuated by a group of people breaking into an impromptu ballroom dance and a fountain whishing away to the heavens in the background. Similarly, Andrew Marcus' editing stands out in a sequence when Natalie tries to sleep with Blake (Liam Hemsworth) but the lovemaking scene always gets cut to the next morning (because hey, it's PG-13). Determined, Natalie tries to make love with Blake take after take only to be brought back to square one. One wishes though that the editing and the camerawork could have exploited the interesting fish-out-of-water situation and come up with more such inventive sequences.

Out of the performances, Rebel Wilson turns out to be the most sincere. Though she plays to the trope of a 'plus-sized woman despising romantic comedies because of the lack of action in her own life', she does imbue her character with a relatable appeal. However, the convoluted writing never lets her transcend the cliche. Hemsworth displays solid range by playing both Natalie's snooty boss in the real world and her Prince Charming-ish boyfriend in the 'rom-com' with conviction. Adam Devine plays the adorable best friend effortlessly and remains the only 'real' thing about the unreal world that Natalie finds herself trapped in.

Priyanka Chopra's screen time is relatively quite less but she contributes to the plot crucially. Since she is steeped in the Bollywood romantic comedies space, she aces the dance and the pitch. But the enormous talent that resides within her deserves a far meatier role.

Isn't It Romantic often trips on the tightrope it walks. It ends up falling prey to the temptation of turning into a convenient romantic comedy. But it never fully embraces that zone because it has to be true to the head space of its protagonist. Towards the end, it makes a valid point about the larger purpose that the rom-com genre serves — one must romance oneself first to be able to appreciate romantic comedies. This writer wishes Isn't It Romantic could love itself more and adopt an inward approach, rather than poking the genre from a distance, like a smitten secret admirer.

Isn't It Romantic is currently streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***

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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2019 16:58:53 IST