I waited for a while on this one.
Down With Love is like a bad date that goes horribly wrong three quarters of the way through. A good time is had until a terrible faux pas is made, or someone gets food poisoning or your date turns out to be a recently released convict or something that totally derails the good time you’re having.
I desperately wanted to like Down With Love. Ewan McGregor is a damn joy to watch in almost everything he does, and God bless us everyone that the good Lord saw fit to create McGregor in the first place. Handsome he is, but save this movie he cannot. Even Renee Zellweger, who normally relies on an obnoxious squint and something passing for sass to sail her way through movies, really tries here. She’s very likeable and very sweet in a way I had never realized was possible for her.
It’s a shame that the actual story sinks the movie.
I get the guilty pleasure aspect of this one. The supporting cast is equally as fun to watch as McGregor and Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce in particular. The costumes and set design are brilliant and beautifully, tongue-in-cheek retro and it looks like everyone had a good time.
Zellweger’s Barbara Novak is an author who comes to Manhattan to promote her book, Down With Love. It’s a book that advocates career promotion and happiness with self before falling in love with a man. She and her editor concoct a scheme to promote her book by setting up an interview with Catcher Block, a playboy writer for a fashionable men’s magazine. After Block repeatedly blows her off, Novak goes another route and becomes internationally famous, leading Catcher Block to have no dates and surrounded by women more interested in chocolate bars and their careers than him. He swears vengeance on Novak by pretending to be someone else and romancing her in order to expose that Miss “Down With Love” is really all about love with some unintended consequences.
I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Pillow Talk, the movie that heavily influenced this one, but I’m fairly sure it was done with a little more finesse than this. Certainly it had to rise above a late twist that’s absurd and unbelievable, breathlessly monologued by Renee Zellweger. I can’t find much fault with Zellweger and McGregor at all, as they’re both effortlessly charming and the whole ’60’s sex comedy thing is sent up to great hilarious effect at times (although I have never confessed to be a connoisseur of ’60’s sex comedies, you know). The whole thing feels weak, and it feels like a sham.
It feels like the investment you put into the movie is threefold what you get out of it and no amount of charm can squeeze Down With Love wholly into one’s heart, even if that’s where the movie desperately wants to go. Instead, the faulty plot and contrivances, even if they’re send ups, send it straight to the discount DVD bin.
A disappointing waste of McGregor, Pierce and Zellweger is what this movie is.