PG-13. The movie has a metatextual element to the MPAA rating. It stresses over-and-over that it is a PG-13 movie, so Rebel Wilson's character isn't allowed to do anything untoward. That being said, the second she is free of the conceit of the film, she drops an f-bomb simply because she can. During the alternate reality sequence, she tries to have sex, but fails because of the PG-13 rating in the movie. She does claim to have snuck a peek at male genetalia, but I don't know when that could have happened because of the meta use of syuzhet. Eh, it's a movie. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Todd Strauss-Schulson
I'm not going to lie. I'm getting a little burned out on rom-coms. I should be standing my ground right now. I should be all, "It's October, baby! Where's the horror movies?" But I also really like that my wife likes watching movies with me, so you can make any kind of commentary you want about my place in this relationship. I remember watching the trailer for this movie and thinking that it looked promising. Rebel Wilson is a treasure. At least, that's what I thought. Rebel Wilson has always played a perfect second fiddle in movies and it is really odd to see her taking the reins. But I don't think it's Rebel Wilson's experience as leading lady that's the problem with the movie.
I guess to talk about this movie, we have to talk about the conceit of the film. Without full on being a parody, the movie embraces the meta-text of film to propel the plot. Rebel Wilson's Natalie finds herself in the world of romantic comedies. She has to follow the rules of romantic comedies to free herself from this alternate dimension. Of course, she is one of those people who don't exactly love romantic comedies. I can relate. I like the idea of the movie, but to really send up a concept using meta humor, it has to be great. Meta humor is truly genius if it is perfectly crafted. The problem is that Isn't It Romantic takes a lot of broad strokes towards romantic comedies and only a few of these jokes really land. It kind of feels like a movie that was made without doing much research. When Isn't It Romantic finds a trope and comments on it, it is great. The crane / drone shot of a car to establish travel / establishing shot set to the theme of "Making My Way Downtown" is spot on perfect. I adored it and the repetition of that joke is probably the most effective thing in the entire film. But a lot of the elements were lazy. The world of romantic comedy isn't teeming with love. Yeah, there are a lot of flowers and people tend to work in a version of New York completely saturated with boutiques. I like that. But do you know what rom-coms don't have? Hearts everywhere. They don't change their signs to show that everyone is in love. Rom-coms have a very specific formula. Heck, I'm really shocked that the movie didn't embrace the living daylights out of the fact that they are all the same movie. Rom-coms love exaggerating conflict between the romantic leads. "There's no way that this is going to work" until it does. However, Isn't It Romantic just has people throwing themselves at Natalie for the whole film. Everything is pushing these two people together when, in reality, they should both be annoyed seeing each other.
And the biggest problem with sending up romantic comedies is that Isn't It Romantic IS a romantic comedy? As goofy as the world of Natalie is when she's in the meta romantic comedy, Natalie's actual life is already a romantic comedy. They try dirtying it up a little bit, but it is more like a romantic comedy in the supposed real world than it is in the world of the film. The meta romantic comedy isn't accurate to the very thing it is parodying. It is almost sending up Enchanted, which is an accurate send up of Disney princess movies. The whole thing feels kind of lazy. When the whole world is kind of lazy, it doesn't really matter how good the jokes are. The jokes, by the way, aren't that good. There's one or two real chuckles in here. But it just felt like this movie was sent out completely underbaked. It takes so many shortcuts to deliver on its central conceit that it just hinders the film as a whole. This all leaves me with certain questions that make it really hard to analyze the film as something cohesive. Its goal was to send up rom-coms, but is ultimately a rom-com in itself. There is no "real world" because it kind of missed the point as a whole. Then, I'm forced to deal with this film as simply a film and not a parody of a greater set of movies. It's weird that I'm hammering this point into the ground, but I actually find myself in defense of romantic comedies as a genre because this movie just missed the point so badly.
This all then kind of spirals into the major message of the film. I dig this message. I approve this message. I want more movies to have this message. But again, like with the failure of the conceit, it also failed in getting to the end of the film in a proper way. Isn't It Romantic does one kind of gutsy thing. It says that finding a perfect man isn't going to make you happy. I really dig this. If we are saying that films should be about empowerment, Isn't It Romantic's message of loving oneself first is super important and I dig that it is in this film. BUT, the movie tries having it both ways. The movie knows its audience. One of the comforting elements about romantic comedies is that they actually provide a sense of joy out of being formulaic. We know who is supposed to come together. The point of watching the film is to watch the beats come together coupled with a fake sense of tension to deliver a story that reminds us of home. It's your mom's meatloaf of films. I get it. The studio, more importantly, gets it. I'm sure that there is a draft of Isn't It Romantic where Rebel Wilson doesn't get together with Adam Devine. The movie is about loving herself and role credits. But I also saw my wife's face when she backs out of interrupting a wedding. She wanted that relationship to be destroyed because it wasn't the ending she was ready for. Me, I just wanted to see the world burn so I climbed on board that sinking ship and wanted to see some corpses. (Again, it's October and I'm analyzing Isn't It Romantic). But the movie had a cake-and-eat-it-too ending and that always bugs me. Natalie has her big revelation. Her mother made her feel like she was somehow less deserving of love than anyone else and when she realized that she needed to treat herself better, that should have been the ending. It's the climax of the film. Her internal conflict is resolved. But then she wakes up in the hospital and gets to have a bit of a do-over, now that she's dealt with her emotional trauma. I couldn't have been the only one to realize that waking up in a hospital that looked remarkably similar to the fictional hospital was probably a dumb move because it only stressed how everything in this film felt artificial? She gets to re-do the romantic comedy, only apparently under "real rules."
But there are no "real rules." The world that Natalie comes from has the deck stacked in her favor. Adam Devine's Josh went from playing it fast and casual about dating to having the perfect words to describe why he stares at her all day. They are in the romantic comedy. We were watching The Big Family Cooking Showdown yesterday on Netflix and the guy claimed that he was going to propose to his girlfriend if they got to the next round. They got booted. The girlfriend still wanted him to propose. He said "No." That's a real bummer reality, but that's reality. The best jokes on reality shows are still pretty bad because reality is not scripted. (Okay, reality shows are totally scripted, except Great British Baking Show). That dance in the end, I don't know if they were implying that she was still in a fictional world or that the film itself is a romantic comedy, but it doesn't do much to defend the movie from the criticisms I just brought up. The movie wants it all and it really can't have it all. It ruins the film on a bunch of levels.
And now I'm stuck saying that I shouldn't take this movie so seriously. It's fine as a date night movie. But the things that get me about movies like this is that they only need a little more crafting to get things perfectly right. But often romantic comedies seem to be made taking shortcuts. Isn't It Romantic has a lot of elements that could have made it special, but it actually shot itself in the foot harder than I've seen a movie do in a while. I had a good time watching a movie with my wife. That movie had people I liked who did an okay job. But ultimately, there's a lot left and that just left me disappointed.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.