“Isn’t It Romantic?”, which was theatrically released in US in last month and then was released by Netflix outside US on last Thursday, is fairly watchable, but it is not as fresh as intended. While it initially seems to have a subversive fun with those numerous clichés and conventions of romantic comedy films, it is still stuck inside its genre formula especially during its predictable finale, and the result is a little bit disappointing despite the undeniable star quality of its lead performer.
The early part of the movie shows how things are mundane and miserable for Natalie (Rebel Wilson), a young Australian architect working in New York City. She is usually neglected by many colleagues at her workplace despite her considerable skill and talent, and, as constantly aware of her chubby appearance, she is also not so confident about how she looks to others around her. Her only comfort at her workplace comes from her two colleagues Josh (Adam DeVine) and Whitney (Betty Gilpin), but she is not usually cheered up much by them, and she is rather oblivious to how much they really care about her.
One of the most amusing moments in the film comes from when Natalie spots Whitney watching a romantic comedy film as usual and then talks a lot about why she does not like romantic comedy films much. As she enumerates a number of genre clichés and conventions one by one, the movie uses some of them as a sort of meta-joke, and Wilson, a genuinely talented comedy actress who drew my attention for the first time with her scene-stealing supporting turn in “Pitch Perfect” (2012), delivers this key moment with sheer gusto.
Not long after that point, something strange happens to Natalie. During her small clash with a robber at a subway station, she happens to get hit in her head and then loses her consciousness, and she is very surprised when she subsequently wakes up at a local hospital. While almost everyone is quite nicer to her than before, the world looks far brighter and sunnier with lots of colors in the background, and she is certainly shocked to find that her apartment becomes wider and more luxurious than before.
In addition, many of people around Natalie are considerably changed. While her neighbor Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) is turned into your typical flamboyant gay friend, Whitney is transformed into a mean workplace rival, and Blake (Liam Hemsworth), who is that important company client in question, becomes a Prince Charming who is automatically attracted to Natalie right from their accidental encounter on the street.
It does not take much time for Natalie to realize that she is stuck in a sort of alternative world dominated by clichés and conventions of romantic comedy films, and the movie accordingly provides a series of absurd moments as expected. There is a loony moment showing how expletives are always masked by noises in this fantasy world, and there is also a silly scene where Natalie is frustrated to discover that she cannot have any substantial carnal fun with Blake because they are in the world rated PG-13.
After concluding that she needs a happy ending for getting out of this artificial fantasy world, Natalie actively pursues Blake, but, of course, she soon discovers that she made a big mistake which was already made by those countless romantic comedy movie characters before. She comes to realize that how much she has been oblivious to her feelings toward Josh (He does not seem changed much in contrast to the other supporting characters in the film, by the way), but he has already been in a relationship with a beautiful female model he comes across by coincidence, and Natalie becomes quite determined to do something about that as Josh and his girlfriend openly announce their engagement in front of Natalie and others.
What follows after that narrative point will not surprise you much if you are a seasoned moviegoer just like me. There is an obligatory moment which surely shows Natalie what a jerk Blake is (Is this a spoiler?), and there is a sweet moment accompanied with a pep talk from Donny (Does this surprise you?), and, of course, there is also a climactic moment showing Natalie running against time in, yes, slow motion.
Dutifully presenting and mocking these and many other genre clichés and conventions as required, the movie ironically succumbs to its genre in the end, and it consequently comes to lose its comic momentum despite the game efforts from Wilson and other notable performers surrounding her. While Adam DeVine and Liam Hemsworth are well-cast in their functional roles, Betty Gilpin and Brandon Scott Jones have some juicy fun while holding their respective places well around Wilson, and Wilson definitely deserves some praise for steadily carrying the film with her own talent and presence.
In conclusion, “Isn’t It Romantic?”, which is competently directed by director Todd Strauss-Schulson, is not particularly bad at all, but it is merely passable without breaking any particular new ground in its genre territory, and that is a shame considering the rich satiric potentials in its story premise. Yes, I laughed several times while watching the film at last night, but I was also reminded that there are a bunch of romantic comedy films which handle their genre elements a lot better than this movie, and, to be frank with you, I think you can skip it unless you have some spare time to kill.