Rebel Wilson takes center stage in her first real lead role in Isn’t It Romantic, a charming (some may say “beguiling”), sometimes clever, and ultimately pointless comedy because of its lack of conviction in seeing its message all the way through.
The clues that you might be the lead in a romantic comedy tend to be endless. If a best friend mentions that you are a workaholic and need a little fun in your life, a rom-com may be in your future. If you have a big project coming up and all you can think about is the new relationship you are in because the love of your life catches you as you trip down the stairs. At the same time, your kooky assistant offers consistent comic relief. You might be in a romantic comedy.
If your overly cynical self is spending almost every moment with your “best friend” of the opposite sex and having endless moments of alluring glances while any Jason Mraz song plays in the background while in the non-chain coffee shop you are sitting in, you are probably in a romantic comedy. Personally, all of those make sense, but I think the amount of throw pillows one finds on the protagonist’s furniture is what separates rom-com from other forms of entertainment.
Rebel Wilson takes center stage in her first real lead role in Isn’t It Romantic, a charming (some may say “beguiling”), sometimes quite clever, and ultimately pointless comedy because of its lack of conviction in seeing its message all the way through. After Wilson’s Natalie hits her head, she wakes up from her slumber that looked like a bland CBS procedural and came out the other side with the bedazzled treatment, as it landed in a colorful NBC sitcom. The flowers are fresh, endless, and never die, while there is a thriving cupcakes shop on every corner, making the city streets smell like sugary baked goods.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson skillfully places these and multiple other clichés or moral platitudes dead center and exaggerated to our heart’s content. Wilson is the best part of the film here, with charm to spare, and can make a line like, “You had me at hello-copter” funny while endearing herself to the audience. The flaws in the film are that the jokes are more amusing than funny, with most of the humor resulting in a clever smirk than actual belly laughs. There’s nothing wrong with “smart” comedy but any of the big set-ups you have seen from the trailer pay off, while one of the big jokes of getting mugged on the subway comes across as cruel and a bit alarming.
Then there is the film’s point of view, as most people who love the rom-com genre like the type of comfort food these films offer, from the cheesy dialogue to the endless top-50 hit songs that get played over and over on the soundtrack (I once heard someone complain to their friend while walking out of the theatre of a film a couple of years back say, “But there weren’t any songs in it.”). For a film that takes on the mere notion that romantic comedies are “bad” and lack realism, Isn’t It Romantic makes the head-scratching decision of jumping back on the fence, so it can make everyone happy and abandon its unique sentiment by giving some their romantic fix; a cardinal sin of any film, frankly. Unless, of course, you are in a romantic comedy.