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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.76%
Average: 15.84%
Pretty Bad: 15.84%
Total Crap: 3.96%

8 reviews, 53 user ratings

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Down with Love
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by Erik Childress

"We Had To Go Back 40 Years To Get A Great Romantic Comedy These Days"
5 stars

Anyone who read my expose on the state of romantic comedies earlier this year knows how my acute cynicism doesn't even factor in when being dismayed at what passes as entertainment in this genre these days. There's no real romance. Just a series of plotting by underwritten cliches devised at being more of a gimmick then anything truly original, heartfelt or funny. Soon enough, the idea of a "throwback" film is going to become a cliché itself, especially when executives realize they work and start making money. If there's any karma in the universe then the stars will align and Down with Love will make that dough and start that trend. I've already seen it twice and I can't wait for people to join me for a third since it's a brilliant film that absolutely puts all the generic romantic comedies we see these days to shame.

At the same time, Down with Love plays with the generic formula that is more in tune with the screwball comedies of yesteryear. Particularly the early 1960s when the colorfully upbeat 50s was about to bridge with the sexual revolution of the next decade. Just as Hollywood's Production Code was beginning to fall and the women's movement was gaining more steam in the workplace than in the kitchen, it was the perfect time for a little equality between romance and naughtiness. The films of Doris Day and Rock Rudson were a representation of that, trying to out-entendre audiences nearly 15 inches...yards...YEARS before Three's Company peaked.

In 1962, smalltown girl Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) has arrived in New York to meet with publishers about her new book entitled Down with Love. The fundamental principle of the woman's guide is to not feel ashamed to approach sexual politics the same way as men. Forget about love. Sex is the key. One-night, mind-clearing unemotional sex that will free women and lower the defenses (or offenses) of the male in the workplace. And if all else fails, chocolate is a worthy substitute if the batteries run out. Her chain-smoking editor, Vicki (a very funny Sarah Paulson), believes in her but naturally the chauvinists whom she still fetches coffee for aren't thrilled with the prospect. But when the book becomes a worldwide sensation, what's a guy to do?

Enter Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), the ultimate womanizer that drives his editor (a dead-on David Hyde-Pierce) batty but always delivers. Sometimes with triplets. Catcher blew off Barbara in threes when there was only one copy on the shelf, but now that she's got the upper hand he wants it back and plans to write the ultimate expose on Barbara and her theories. Posing as a down-home Texas astronaut (similar to Hudson's ploy in Pillow Talk), he begins to romance her and delay her sexual wantons until love conquers all. Of course, he never expects love to conquer him as well.

If this plotline was set in present day, it would be just another drop in the 101 bucket of screenwriters equating romance with bets, schemes and coincidences. Instead, it's both a satire and a tribute to the films it proceeds to reminisce and slyly digs a little deeper with each passing minute into the sexual mores of relationships and the games that the sexes play in love and business. The ideas of societal role reverses and women gaining the world but losing their souls to become as manipulative and emotionally sterile as the stereotypical man are lofty enough not to dismiss this as just a playful tryst on the genre.

Director Peyton Reed and screenwriters Eve Ahlert & Dennis Drake ease us into the concept by establishing the simple-speak of the characters, the corny traits that inhabit them and the plot they find themselves in. Eye-blinking, flashy smiles, pastels on every fabric of clothing and each piece of architecture (certain to garner attention at the Oscars next year) set up the rules of the game that we must immediately buy into or risk the ridiculous exaggerations of what's ahead. Reed did a solid job of establishing himself with the surprising cheerleader comedy, Bring It On. With Down with Love, he proves he has the sure hand for exquisite comic timing and even greater things to come.

It helps to have just a smattering of knowledge about the films in which it pays homage to. Younger generations will just have to assume that the characters are playing it straight and just buy the plotting. But to those who made How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days $100 million, this won't seem like such a stretch in logic. The uninformed masses are likely to confuse the film's big centerpiece joke as a ripoff of Austin Powers as opposed to the split-screen touching of Hudson & Day from Pillow Talk. Let’s just say they don’t touch feet here. But anyone who mistakes Zellweger's inspiredly-written, unflinchingly-delivered three-minute-plus monologue towards the end of the film as anything but a smackdown of the ludicrous nature of those generic comedies I constantly refer to, is clearly out of the realm of this film’s sensibilities and should move on to the next “uproariously funny” film that Earl Dittman or David Sheehan recommends.

Down with Love gets everything right. The dialogue is sharp and delivered with sincerity while a tongue is firmly planted and an eyelash wink is waiting in the wings. The performances of Zellweger and McGregor had me smiling from frame-to-frame and the screenplay continued to evolve even as they were serenading me out of the theater. For a film to depend on the standard plotting we should come to expect from these types of films and to still pull surprises on us, something special is afoot. This is one of the most vivid, funny and slyly penetrative romantic comedies in years so get down with it before it goes down, sucks out the balls of creative Hollywood executives everywhere and leaves nothing more than a spurt on the cinematic radar. It’s one of the best films of the year.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/17/03 01:01:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/05/18 Suzanne This movie aces the sixties. What a delight! 5 stars
2/20/11 Ark Fun! Brilliant colors, plus that monologue of hers at the end ROCKS! 4 stars
7/12/09 the dork knight Hope you like sex-related puns. Only DHP saves it. 3 stars
10/01/07 Mable Cowpie A nice parody of the era - entertaining 4 stars
12/16/06 Ika Brilliant! The Actors, the plot, the movie! Awesome! 5 stars
10/27/06 Rio Was great up until they decided that love was good. 3 stars
6/11/05 Lucy Catcher Block Rocks my Socks! 5 stars
5/28/05 Lacey Very well done, flawless casting, great twist at the end. 5 stars
4/30/05 Alyson I say the best romantic comedy since Grease! 5 stars
9/23/04 Temenouzhka Zaharieva - ID and journalist According to the quality os set design my rating is 5 5 stars
9/15/04 random* fantastic send-up- um, fellow commenters, you missed the joke 5 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva Pathetic all that to get a guy 2 stars
6/04/04 Elizabeth Jewell Everything this woman accomplished was for love of this jerk? Say it ain't so. 2 stars
5/30/04 The More You Know The pepto bismol film formula always makes me nauseous. 1 stars
5/07/04 Amy Wardle It was funny in a way that it was so lame you had to laugh. 2 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt A smart, fun, stylish, and underrated film! 4 stars
2/16/04 Jim Michaels Satirizes the 60's uptight, yet zany style without succumbing to derision or delusion. 5 stars
1/25/04 Ryan Think that is was just awesome! Perfect casting... 5 stars
10/08/03 Sarah Attention dumb people, this movie is a remake of Pillow Talk (1959) 4 stars
10/06/03 Ali Ali Oxygen Free Renee Zellweger&Ewan McGregor ain't no Doris Day&Rock Hudson! No way! Nohow! 2 stars
10/05/03 Stephanie Throckmorton Wanders into all territory, none that it doesn't see fit to overkill. 2 stars
10/03/03 Troy Butler 4.5 stars, ... a great fun movie!!! If only more romantic comedies were made this well!!! 5 stars
9/22/03 Ray Loved it! Up with Down With Love! Doris and Rock would have got a chuckle out of it too! 5 stars
9/02/03 chloe I LOVED it and didn't expect to at all, now I'm hunting out the old Doris Day films 5 stars
8/20/03 murphy daniels snif snif sooo bewdiful 5 stars
8/17/03 Nicole Absolutely fantastic 5 stars
8/15/03 Paul Dempsey When a Hollywpod star promotes film in Oz you know it's a dud. 2 stars
8/13/03 Nancy295 Fun but not the real thing. Ewan and Renee should work together again. 4 stars
7/25/03 Kelly Attention dumb people:Ewan & Renee are NOT SUPPOSED to be playing Rock & Doris! 5 stars
7/20/03 Verbal Me Excellent movie, refreshing and hilarious! 5 stars
7/12/03 ali ali oxygen free Renee Zellweger&Ewan McGregor ain't no Doris Day&Rock Hudson! No way! Nohow! 2 stars
7/11/03 Stephanie Throckmorton Wanders into all territory, none that it doesn't see fit to overkill. 2 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald witty, well-acted, briskly paced, good when it's naughty fun 5 stars
6/29/03 Titus As a romatic comedy, this is absolutely tops. Great script 5 stars
6/11/03 Brannie Herez Brannie, This movie looks sooo bad that i wont even bother to pay for movie tickets. 1 stars
6/03/03 E. Allen This was a fantastic movie! It kept me smiling long after I left the theater! 5 stars
5/31/03 San Alexandra Great mavie! I loved the whole back in the 60's thing even though i'm only 14. 5 stars
5/29/03 Emily I love Ewan, this was a great movie! 5 stars
5/28/03 Dalian et rae Read the book -- this works more in literary format 3 stars
5/27/03 wintermute A pretty package with nothing inside 2 stars
5/24/03 Full Throtle Ahead Really funny movie! Everything about it was great! 5 stars
5/24/03 Nancy Niedzielski call me a hopelessly Down-with-Love girl, but this was a waste of 94 minutes of my life 2 stars
5/22/03 peter nnnnnnnnnn 1 stars
5/22/03 Todd something you could sit through 3 stars
5/22/03 Jai I never thought this movie would be as good as it was! 5 stars
5/21/03 Emmy Really great and funny! 5 stars
5/21/03 Kim (not Novak) Excellent--a silly movie for smart people. Perfect from start to finish. 5 stars
5/20/03 Dick BAD 1 stars
5/20/03 Rover Brilliant!! Funny! DHP is awesome! 5 stars
5/19/03 Michelle B Loved it. Ewan and Renee are hilarious. 5 stars
5/19/03 v.e.r. rz &emc were both terrific in playing their roles also the film was very amusung. 4 stars
5/19/03 holli I'll never again be satisfied with predictable, lifeless, modern day romantic comedies! 5 stars
5/18/03 George Jung Holy fucking movie of the fucking year so fucking far. Fucking amazing. 5 stars
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  16-May-2003 (PG-13)



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