At the beginning of Isn’t It Romantic, young Natalie was smitten into Pretty Woman when her mother scolded her and indoctrinated her to despise romcoms of any kind. To her, life isn’t like romcom; to her, all the happy endings in romcoms are merely a start of an unhappy life. She grows up being a love cynic (portrayed by Rebel Wilson, all-in with the Australian accent) making a living in New York as an architect who constantly bashes romcom premises until some sh*t happens. She hit her head during a confrontation with a mugger and she wakes up in a romcom… a PG-13 romcom.
From there alone, it’s obvious that Isn’t It Romantic is a dedicated work to satirize romcom clichés and turn all the premise upside down. Helmed by Todd Strauss-Schulson—whose most recent venture,The Final Girls, was a playful take on the cliché of horror’s final girls, the genre mockery looks promising here. It tries to be equally uplifting throughout its dense duration; and yet, it gets exhausted in playing with so many clichés, only to be falling into some of the most apparent.
Wilson’s performance in the leading role starts off lukewarm, but gets more comfortable as she goes on. To be seeing Wilson in a foul-mouthed, cynical mode might lead us to the wrong impression; but as she gets to survive in the midst of romcom inferno, we’ll see how capable she is in this role. Casting Wilson is, by all means, a perfect decision that makes most sense. Despite being overly critical about the subject matter, Wilson is basically all of us, not the archetypal romcom girl which might only make the story more distant.
In poking out the genre, Isn’t It Romantic often exaggerates some elements only to highlight the clichés. From a vibrant-looking and lavender-smelling New York— in contrast with the plain, dull-looking New York displayed earlier in the movie; the all-round, over-sized apartment full with all-fit clothes and shoes; the never-ending meet-cute; to the flamboyant gay side-kick; everything seems to be heightened up to make fun of them. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson visualizes the script with visual distinction and adept comedic set-piece, in a similar fashion as in The Final Girl.
The main challenge in genre-mocking such as it is has always been making it relevant to the satire without being over-dabbled into the clichés. While fun at times, Isn’t It Romantic ends up falling into the pit it tries to criticize. At some points, we know exactly where the whole story’s headed just because we’ve been proficient with the formulaic romcom. It’s good that Isn’t It Romantic doesn’t try to over-stretched the duration with more setups to mock. Additionally, it’s able to deliver the final message effectively, closing the movie on a positive note.
Final verdict, Rebel Wilson excels in guiding us to re-assess that ‘love isn’t as beautiful as romcom’ jargon in a satire to the sub-genre clichés in general. Even when Isn’t It Romantic? fell into the subject it tries to criticize, it’s still uplifting.
Isn’t It Romantic (2019)
Comedy, Romance, Fantasy Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson Written by: Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, Katie Silberman Starred by: Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin Runtime: 89 mins