Most of us are familiar with the typical tropes peppered throughout romantic comedies. Although some films do a good job at making the tropes not seem so formulaic, and at times, a bit silly, there are still those that fall flat in their usage of these rom-com stereotypes. Isn’t It Romantic strives to turn all of the tropes on their heads by showing the audience just how ridiculous they actually can be.
The film begins with a young version of protagonist, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) watching the popular Julia Roberts rom-com, Pretty Woman. Lost in a trance due to the perfection of the movie’s romance, Natalie’s love bubble is burst when her mother (Jennifer Saunders) walks in and tells her daughter that rom-coms are not true and things that happen in the movies don’t ever happen in real life. It is easy to see how Natalie becomes jaded due to her mother’s words, and her love for rom-coms and any unrealistic hopes she had for her love life in the future are dashed. Fast forward to the present, and Natalie’s life is stuck in a rut and she needs to find a way out of it.
Working as an architect, Natalie is severely undervalued and unappreciated. Somehow, all her colleagues walk all over her, or don’t even really know that she exists or what she does. The only saving graces are her best friend Josh (Adam DeVine), and her other best friend, rom-com watching assistant, Whitney (Betty Gilpin). Whitney tries to point out to Natalie on a regular basis that rom-coms aren’t as bad as Natalie makes them seem, and that if she just opened herself up to people, love might find her in truly romantic fashion. Of course, Natalie is not interested in any of Whitney’s lovey-dovey nonsense and ignores her friend’s words, heading home for the day after a dismal day in the workplace.
However, even the commute home doesn’t go well for Natalie. While on the subway, a man begins to wave at her through the small window of the next train car. Remembering Whitney’s suggestion to be more open, Natalie waves back and greets the stranger with a smile. But when she exits the train at her stop, she sees the stranger and the two begin to talk. But while Natalie thinks this might be a romantic connection, the man attempts to mug her. Fighting back, Natalie snatches back her purse, only to end up in a head-on collision with a nearby steel column. Waking up in the hospital later, Natalie realizes she’s now in a world that is a PG-13 rom-com and she desperately needs to find her way out.
The cast in this film serves its purpose as it pertains to their roles. What is expected out of Rebel Wilson as Natalie is what you get. While Wilson does a good job, the role isn’t much different from Wilson’s past films, so there isn’t much to critique here. The same could be said for Adam DeVine – his character Josh was reminiscent to his character, Andy Bailey, on Modern Family. The standouts were definitely the supporting cast of Hemsworth, Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones as Donny, Natalie’s neighbour (and best friend in the rom-com fantasy land she wakes up in) and Priyanka Chopra as Isabella. These four the ones who blended seamlessly from the real world, to rom-com world and any time this quartet of actors were on screen, it definitely produced some of the film’s best moments.
Isn’t It Romantic tries to show us that there should be a balance between reality and the cliche-filled world of romantic comedies. In that sense, the film does a good job of showing that people’s lives aren’t always picture-perfect and that when you do find your significant other, not everything is all roses and perfection.
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, Isn’t It Romantic is clearly not your average rom-com. While it serves to poke fun at some of the beloved movies of the genre from the past, it curiously ends up falling victim to some of the same cliches it’s clearly trying to call out (i.e. lack of diversity, handsome man who is a superficial jerk, and happy endings). While the film does have some funny moments, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this still could have been a better film.
Isn’t It Romantic is in theaters February 14.