Down With Love movie review

A scene from 'Down With Love'
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*** stars
102 minutes | Rated: PG-13
WIDE: Friday, May 16, 2003
Directed by Peyton Reed

Starring Ewan McGregor, Renee Zellweger, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce, Tony Randall, Jeri Ryan, Melissa George, Rachel Dratch, Laura Kightlinger

This film received an Honorable Mention on the Best of 2003 list.


Shot in CinemaScope to better recreate the look of the era, director Reed uses every inch of the frame to great effect. If you see it full-screen, you'll be missing 2/3 of the movie.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 10.07.2003
The motor-mouthed commentary by director Peyton Reed, in which he discusses every aspect of recreating the soundstage world of 1960s romantic comedy, is an enjoyable listen for those who really get a gas out of this movie (like me). But the multiple making-of bonus features on this DVD (with individual vignettes on, for example, costumes, music, and even the use of split-screen) are genuinely entertaining in their own right, mostly because the actors and filmmakers are clearly having a ball on the set.

A screamingly funny blooper/gag reel. Deleted scenes (w/ commentary). Full video from the "TV shows" filmed for the movie.

Perfect on both counts, which is good since the film's look and music are so vital to recreating the 1960s style (which in the case of sound has, of course, been modernized with 5.1 Dolby).

RATIO: 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: Spanish, French
SUBS: English, Spanish

DVD RATING: ***1/2

  • Genre homage movies
  • Peyton Reed
  • Ewan McGregor
  • Renee Zellweger
  • David Hyde Pierce
  • Sarah Paulson
  • Melissa George

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Watch the trailer
    Zellweger, McGregor are hilarious in 'Love,' a fond satire of '60s Rock Hudson-Doris Day sex comedies

    By Rob Blackwelder

    For anyone who's ever enjoyed the corny fluff of Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies -- or even gotten a good laugh out of their outdated sexual mores -- Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor will earn ear-to-ear grins for their deliciously tongue-in-cheek performances in "Down With Love."

    An affectionate spoof of the pastel giddiness of late '50s/early '60s battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedies like "Pillow Talk" and "Lover Come Back," the movie is directed by Peyton Reed, who proved his talent for good-natured ribbing in 2000's surprisingly droll and self-mocking cheerleader flick "Bring It On."

    Super-saturated with soundstagey Technicolor style, the picture stars the wide-eyed and witty Zellweger as Barbara Novak, an adorably effervescent, fashionably feminist author freshly arrived in Manhattan. A farmer's-daughter-cum-sophisticate, she has written an empowerment manifesto for the fairer sex called "Down With Love," the gist of which is that romance is a distraction and women should "enjoy sex the way a man does -- a la carte!" A controversial concept in 1962.

    When the book becomes a worldwide sensation -- "You're bigger than the pill!" exclaims her unlucky-in-love editor/best friend Vicki (Sarah Paulson) -- and women are emboldened to challenge the sexual status quo, Barbara finds herself in the crosshairs of infamous playboy-journalist Catcher Block (McGregor), who aims to debunk her by making her fall head over heels in love.

    A cuff-link twirling, charm-oozing "ladies' man, man's man, man about town," Catcher has already irked Barbara once by standing her up for a men's magazine interview in which she was to tout the feminine libido. But since they've never met face-to-face, when he poses as Zip Martin, an aw-shucks astronaut who is too much of a shy Southern gentleman to sleep with her, Barbara's none the wiser and the ruse begins to work -- if only because she "can't even get picked up by a taxi driver" now that she's become an icon of girlish feminism.

    Reed packs "Love" with ribald innuendo (during a genre-mocking split-screen phone call Zellweger and McGregor appear to be assuming a series of kinky sexual positions) and zealously embellishes every aspect of '60s cinematic ambiance. Every stick of funky furniture (Catcher's couch turns into a bed with the flip of a switch), every process-shot backdrop of period-streets stock footage, every colorful costume (Zellweger and Paulson change dozens of times and McGregor wears sock suspenders) is spot-on. The dialogue, the sound design, the cinematography, and the score all ape the era with flawless over-the-top precision.

    But it's the pitch-perfect, whimsically ironic acting that gives the film its confectionary exuberance. There's a remarkable twinkle in Zellweger's busily popping eyes, but it doesn't substitute for finding her character's soul, which in turn doesn't interfere with the actress giving her funniest performance to date. Her matter-of-fact delivery of an intentionally and absurdly long-winded scolding of Catcher Block -- in which she reveals a madcap major plot-twist -- has to have been hard to do with a straight face. But there's never the slightest crack in her character's tenacious resolve.

    With his wiry frame and a little grease in his hair, McGregor absolutely looks the part of a Kennedy-era screen idol, yet he brings just the right amount of lampoonery to his sexy swingin' bachelor whose chauvinistic plot backfires when he -- gasp! -- begins to fall for Barbara.

    In a case of inspired casting, "Frasier's" David Hyde Pierce rounds out the company of players as Catcher's neurotic, nebulously fay, romantically inept boss (and art-of-seduction protege), who is, of course, desperately in love with Vicki. (Tony Randall, who traditionally had that role in the Day-Hudson flicks, has a cameo here as the sexist president of Barbara's publishing house.)

    Unfortunately, "Down With Love" stumbles significantly in an elongated epilogue that falls back on the same clichés the movie is meant to mock. It would have been much funnier and more satisfying if Reed and screenwriters Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake had stuck to their modern-girl guns. But more I cannot say without giving away too much story.

    Suffice it to say this was going to be a four-star review until the last 10 minutes knocked it down to three.


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