The world of a romantic comedy often showcases a woman who has the perfect job and life, but is desperately lacking the perfect man. “Isn’t it Romantic” tackles the conventions of a romantic comedy head on, immersing viewers in its superficial world, yet stumbles when giving its own protagonist a love story of her own.
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, “Isn’t It Romantic” follows Natalie (Rebel Wilson), an overweight, loveless architect whose timid nature and insecurities cause her coworkers to walk all over her. This lack of self-worth leads her to overlook her best friend Josh’s (Adam Devine) feelings for her, despite his obvious inferences.
Bookended by the reality of Natalie’s life, “Isn’t It Romantic” journeys to a fantasy world of romance and extravagance for its middle portion. Through this fantastical world, Natalie sees her life through a new perspective.
The movie opens with 12-year-old Natalie watching “Pretty Woman.” Her mother enters and disparages the film, claiming overweight women would never get to live the fantasy of a romantic comedy.
In the present, Natalie critiques the genre for multiple hours to her assistant and friend, Whitney (Betty Gilpin), falling into the trap her mother set for her — that she’s undeserving of a great love.
After a mugging on the subway, Natalie comes face-to-face with a pole, knocking herself out. When she wakes up, the world has radically changed. Colors are brighter, doctors are hotter and her hair and makeup resemble a pageant contestant rather than recently-mugged woman coming out of unconsciousness.
Natalie’s coma dream takes her to a world where rom-com tropes become reality.
Natalie’s romantic world has all the cliches: Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” a fantastic and colorful apartment conveniently next door to her new gay best friend, Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) and a conventionally attractive love interest (Liam Hemsworth).
“Isn’t It Romantic” shows the real, unromantic world Natalie lives in, with a humdrum nine-to-five job and a dingy apartment, and uses it to juxtapose from the fantasy world.
In the real world, Hemsworth’s Blake mistakes Natalie for the coffee girl in her own meeting. In the world Natalie’s coma takes her to, Blake bumps her with his limo and offers her a ride home, flirtatiously.
The world takes Natalie’s actual life and transforms it to fit the rom-com genre to a T, even having the model (Priyanka Chopra) from the billboard across from Natalie’s office appear as an obstacle in her journey with Josh.
While “Isn’t It Romantic” brings little originality to the already packed genre, it uses the existing tropes well. Working in its favor is the infectious energy filling every scene as Wilson delivers a great performance of strong physical comedy and expert comedic timing.
The film doesn’t skip a beat and even though some don’t hit, the plethora of jokes make for a fast-paced adventure that holds the viewer’s attention.
Much of the film’s success comes from the cast’s dedicated performances, particularly those of Wilson and Hemsworth.
Hemsworth’s electrifying energy fills the screen, and he brings solid characterization to the one-dimensional character of Blake. The contrast between his scenes in the real world and within the rom-com showcase Hemsworth’s range and will likely endear audiences to his over-the-top romantic portrayal.
The cinematography noticeably stands out, and the juxtaposition of coloring and lighting in the real and romanticized worlds help make Natalie’s dream stand out and feel magical and otherworldly.
A place where doves fly in the shape of a heart and New York smells of lavender rather than pollution — Natalie’s fantasy world truly feels like a place where love is the answer to life’s problems. It’s intoxicating and charming, and it’s where the movie really shines.
The music choices also fire on all cylinders, including “A Thousand Years,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and an upbeat end number of Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” The score entraps viewers in the world of a rom-com and accompanies the sweet atmosphere of the cinematography well.
The writing nails the cliches and absurdity of romantic comedies yet problems arise when the movie comes back to reality for the ending.
While Natalie proclaims the story as one of finding self-love, the ending is weakened by the movie’s insistence to give her a romance of her own. Her sharp characterization shift from wallflower to assertive rings false in the context of the film, and some nuances are necessary to truly sell her growth.
The film sharply satirizes rom-coms of the past, yet these digs ring slightly hollow in the context of Natalie’s own love story. While the film tries to sell Natalie’s life as a modern rom-com of its own, these scenes feel lackluster and derive from the same tropes the film parodies. The actual romance is derivative, and the addition of self-awareness doesn’t save these scenes from falling into the one-dimensional trap of so many rom-coms before.
Despite its flaws, “Isn’t It Romantic” is a movie bustling with personality. Great performances, a bubblegum pop musical score and an impressive rate of jokes, help the film take viewers to the world of a rom-com, and it’s a carefree blast for anyone looking to turn their brain off for a couple hours.
“Isn’t It Romantic,” rated PG-13, is in theaters nationwide.