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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Isn't It Romantic  (2019)
3 Stars
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson.
Cast: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones, Jennifer Saunders, Tom Ellis.
2019 – 88 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for language, some sexual material, and a brief drug reference).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, February 13, 2019.
Rebel Wilson (2017's "Pitch Perfect 3") is utterly beguiling in "Isn't a Romantic." She plays Natalie, a cynical New York City architect whose lack of confidence has kept her from moving ahead at her job (she currently designs parking lots). As a child, her love of romantic comedies was squashed by her mother (Jennifer Saunders), who made it clear she didn't have the looks or charisma to win the guy like Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock always seemed to do in movies. When Natalie is mugged in the subway and knocked unconscious, she comes to in a picturesque, fantastical version of Manhattan that looks like it was ripped from a Williams Sonoma catalogue by way of "13 Going on 30." Suddenly, her apartment is bigger and impeccably decorated, her office is fancier, she's got a stereotypical gay best friend on hand to confide in, the four-letter curse words she utters are bleeped to retain a PG-13 rating, and every guy she meets seems to instantly fall for her. Her top suitor would appear to be the wealthy, classically handsome Blake (Liam Hemsworth), but it doesn't take a romantic-comedy aficionado to realize her devoted pal and co-worker Josh (Adam Devine) is the guy for her.

Writer-director Todd Strauss-Schulson, who satirized the slasher subgenre while treating his characters with unexpected gravitas in 2015's "The Final Girls," does the same thing here with rom-coms. "Isn't It Romantic" not only understands the tropes of cinematic love stories, but also knows how to comedically reference them while also treating Natalie's personal journey seriously. The results are sweet, funny and energetic, running a just-right 88 minutes. Adding to the allure of a city-set romance come to life, the production design and cinematography are gorgeous, each moment of Natalie's alternate reality lit like a storybook. The soundtrack, too, is adeptly chosen (the use of Annie Lennox's "No More I Love You's" during Natalie and Blake's first date is magical), and a musical number set to Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" is irresistibly buoyant. Best of all, the film's core message of self-acceptance rings true, giving the proceedings a deeper conflict than which guy our lead character ends up with.
© 2019 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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