July 17, 2019

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It IS romantic

Our panel of rom-com reviewers fell in love with Isn't It Romantic?

Can a rom-com send up a rom-com?

That’s the premise of Isn’t It Romantic, the non-rom-com starring Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) as Natalie, a self-sufficient but unconfident architect who suffers a head injury and finds herself living in a rom-com world, with a fabulous wardrobe, a gay BFF, a handsome billionaire suitor (Liam Hemsworth) and a platonic buddy (Adam Devine) who everyone but her knows is her Prince Charming.

Three Free Press critics/rom-com connoisseurs — Alison Gillmor, Jill Wilson and Jen Zoratti — discuss this fresh, funny take on a much-hated genre.

Minor spoilers ahead, but it’s a rom-com. You know how it ends.

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Can a rom-com send up a rom-com?

MOVIE REVIEW

Click to Expand

Isn’t It Romantic?

• Starring Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine and Liam Hemsworth
• Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne
• PG rating, 89 minutes

That’s the premise of Isn’t It Romantic, the non-rom-com starring Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) as Natalie, a self-sufficient but unconfident architect who suffers a head injury and finds herself living in a rom-com world, with a fabulous wardrobe, a gay BFF, a handsome billionaire suitor (Liam Hemsworth) and a platonic buddy (Adam Devine) who everyone but her knows is her Prince Charming.

Three Free Press critics/rom-com connoisseurs — Alison Gillmor, Jill Wilson and Jen Zoratti — discuss this fresh, funny take on a much-hated genre.

Minor spoilers ahead, but it’s a rom-com. You know how it ends.

Jen Zoratti

OK, so, I loved this movie, which I was not expecting at all.

Jill Wilson

The casting was surprisingly excellent. I find Rebel Wilson too broad in most movies, and I found she was quite constrained and convincing in that role. I bought her.

I love Adam Devine as a performer, and I really loved him as the friend-zone guy. I totally couldn’t wait for them to get together because he was so sweet, and usually he plays a smarmy jerk.

I thought it was nice for him to play a good guy. He’s not super attractive, but they made him seem cute — he gets better-looking when you like him.

Jen Zoratti

He kind of has an Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) thing going on for me. Funny and sweet guys who are attractive because they’re funny and sweet. Which is also a rom-com trope in and of itself. But I agree about casting. I love Betty Gilpin (who played her work BFF Whitney) in everything.

 

Adam Devine usually plays a smarmy jerk, but in Isn't It Romantic he plays a good guy. (Warner Bros. Pictures via The Associated Press)

Adam Devine usually plays a smarmy jerk, but in Isn't It Romantic he plays a good guy. (Warner Bros. Pictures via The Associated Press)

Jill

Liam Hemsworth was a nice blend of hunky and goofy.

Alison

He was quite a good comic actor.

Jen

I honestly wasn’t expecting him to be funny, which is perhaps biased of me. Like, you’re hot, therefore...

Jill

Look at Hugh Grant, though. There was lots of Two Weeks’ Notice in it. The New York setting, the helicopters, and he’s a rich, devil-may-care playboy.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures</p><p>Liam Hemsworth in a scene from Isn’t It Romantic.</p>

Warner Bros. Pictures

Liam Hemsworth in a scene from Isn’t It Romantic.

Alison Gillmor

There were tons of references to other rom-coms. It works by taking the tropes of the romantic comedy head on and admitting that they’re kind of ridiculous and taking them to the point where they fall off the cliff into a new comic reality.

The fact that Natalie grows up on rom-coms and then reacts against them, and the one she’s shown watching as a girl that poisons her basically is Pretty Woman, which is so problematic in hindsight. What were we telling little girls?

Jill

Pretty Woman is really the worst rom-com that there is. It’s a terrible message.

Jen

Natalie is supposed to be my age I’m guessing, based on the age she was when she was watching it. I definitely saw Pretty Woman as a kid and thinking ‘Wow, she’s so glamourous.’

Jill

Did you think Richard Gere was hot?

Jen

No, I’ve never thought Richard Gere was hot. Not now, not then.

Jill Wilson

I felt like we were laughing more than some people. I thought it was extremely funny.

Like when she said, ‘This isn’t an emergency room, it’s a Williams Sonoma.’ There were so many clever details. And when she was running and had to pull up her pants.

Jen: I know! That’s me in literally every exercise class.

Alison

There were so many little moments when you just thought, ‘Oh my God, I get her.’

Jen

She was really relatable, and I think it’s because, further to Jill’s point, she wasn’t over the top. I haven’t enjoyed Rebel Wilson as much as I did in this film because she was always kind of a caricature who I think we were supposed to find relatable based solely on her body type.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures</p><p>Rebel Wilson in a scene from Isn’t It Romantic.</p>

Warner Bros. Pictures

Rebel Wilson in a scene from Isn’t It Romantic.

Jill

She also wasn’t a total schlumpf the way some women are at the beginning of rom-coms — like, ‘pull yourself together.’ She was capable and smart.

Jen

I liked that, unlike I Feel Pretty — the other film in the emerging Woman Hits Head, Gets New Life canon — her body wasn’t a plot point. She felt invisible due to a lack of confidence and being a pushover, not because of other people reacting to her appearance. I appreciated that.

Alison

Like the idea someone would find her attractive was not played for outlandish comedy.

Jen

I also appreciated how many tropes they tackled in a fairly economical running time.

Alison

The feminist subtext about how usually the woman’s work is always this kind of backdrop and she’s always an artisanal cupcake maker, and also the trope that if there’s another woman at your workplace, you have to hate her.

And making the gay best friend just so ridiculously regressive, and then that lovely moment where he brings it down and is real.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures</p><p>Rebel Wilson in a scene from Isn't It Romantic.</p>

Warner Bros. Pictures

Rebel Wilson in a scene from Isn't It Romantic.

Jen Zoratti

You can tell it comes from a place of love, and I think that’s why its premise was successful. The filmmakers are clearly students of the rom-com. And maybe because we’ve all seen a lot of rom-coms, maybe that’s why we found it funnier?

And I think we hit the right age groups; clearly this is sending up a specific decade of rom-com. That’s why Crazy Rich Asians felt like the first true rom-com in a while; it was such a call back to the ‘90s.

Jill

Yeah, that escapist universe. And I do love rom-coms. I love Two Weeks’ Notice. I love Music and Lyrics more than I should.

Alison

I liked The Wedding Singer.

Jill

The Wedding Singer’s cute! I really like the good ones, but the bad ones are so bad. This movie had a real appreciation for the good ones. It is a rom-com at its heart and you want her to end up with the right guy. I thought it was really well done.

Alison

It was very witty and the heart snuck up on you and ambushed you by the end.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures</p><p>Rebel Wilson (left) and Betty Gilpin in a scene from Isn’t It Romantic.</p>

Warner Bros. Pictures

Rebel Wilson (left) and Betty Gilpin in a scene from Isn’t It Romantic.

Jill

How many stars would you give it if you were reviewing it?

Alison

I would say three and a half or four.

Jill

I think four for me, partially because it surprised me so much.

Alison

I went in with low expectations.

Jill

Which you should always do, probably. That’s my favourite fortune cookie: lower your expectations and you will not be disappointed.

Alison Gillmor

I mean, the bad rom-coms. Like Failure to Launch, it’s just appalling and so contrived.

That’s the thing. Unless it’s Jane Austen, what’s going to be the obstacle to two modern people sleeping together? So they have to make up these ridiculous obstacles.

It’s been getting so belaboured. By making it this wacky parallel universe — or, as she said, "The Matrix for lonely women" — it actually worked.

Jen

She’s someone you want to cheer for. That’s not always the case in romantic comedies.

Jill

Like, in 13 Going on 30, you’re like, ‘Snap out of it, lady, Mark Ruffalo clearly is the man for you.’

Jen

Mark Ruffalo is always the man for you.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures</p><p>Brandon Scott Jones (left) and Rebel Wilson in a scene from Isn't It Romantic.</p>

Warner Bros. Pictures

Brandon Scott Jones (left) and Rebel Wilson in a scene from Isn't It Romantic.

Jill

The one thing I didn’t like was her big moment when she does her presentation. It was pretty empty. The metaphor of a parking garage being beautiful was a little belaboured and not really effective.

Alison

I don’t think this will be a cult favourite among architects.

Jen

There’s always a presentation about love.

Alison

It’s better to have the bad clichés as a source of comedy.

Jen

It was self-referential without shitting all over rom-coms, you know?

Alison

Yes, it wasn’t obnoxiously meta. It was witty and clever and even sweet.

Jill Wilson

Her apartment was classic New York rom-com apartment, and the music that played when she opened the door — and she did it twice in a row — you don’t realize it, but that’s the music they always play when you open a door in a rom-com.

There were all kinds of details that were really smart.

Jen

The heart-shaped flock of birds. And when he wrote his phone number on the rose! That was the funniest part of the movie.

Jill

The one thing I wish they did, and this bothers me in every movie, but when two people wake up and not only are they beautiful, but they’re all ready to start making out with their morning breath.

Jen

Yeah, does no one have a retainer that needs removing?

Alison

After your montage, you’d be OK.

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

Read full biography

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

Read full biography

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