Isn't It Romantic Review: A parody that falls prey to its own cliches
A parody of all romcoms that isn’t as effective as it ought to have been, but there’s no harm in giving it one watch
Isn’t It Romantic starts off with some good advice, featuring a teenage Natalie glued to the television set, obsessing over Julia Roberts and Richard Gere’s highly unlikely romance in Pretty Woman. Natalie’s mother breaks it down for the kid in the most gentle and practical way she can. “Romantic comedies aren’t the stuff of real life, and they aren’t meant for girls like you and me,” is about the gist of it.
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Cast: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, Adam DeVine
Cut to several years later, and Rebel Wilson’s character is an architect living the tough life of a New Yorker. Though kind and understanding, she’s a bit of a doormat for all intents and purposes (she gets treated like a gofer in the office, being requested to do odd jobs and the like, despite the fact that she holds an important position in the firm). However, Natalie does not view life and love with rose-tinted glasses. She can be deemed a borderline cynic, even. She dispels commonly held notions of fairy-tale endings and romanticised love to her two closest co-workers: Whitney (her assistant) and Josh (her best friend). Now, even though she doesn’t get her rightful due, this is a young woman that has her feet firmly on the ground (someone many people can relate to, in fact).
Isn’t It Romantic tries very hard to poke fun at romcoms across the board, and does a fair job of the parody every now and then, but ultimately, much like the clichés it attempts to mock, it ends up being a sort of ‘romantic comedy within a romantic comedy’ type scenario. All the tropes it wishes to expose (a happily ever after; a love that was there all along, but no one was incisive enough to spot it; beauty being skin deep and all that jazz) exist in the parody, as well, taking away some of the film’s originality. There is one distinct moment of laughter that stands out. When Natalie wakes up in a hospital bed after being mugged at a subway station, just about every man she encounters is good-looking, and oozes charm while complimenting her. She panics, and makes it back home, with the assistance of the same handsome client from her office (who, just a few hours ago, was rather dismissive of her presence at an important meeting). Once Natalie pieces things together, she cusses into the heavens (all her expletives are beeped out by stray sounds from the street), declaring that she is stuck in a romantic comedy with a PG-13 certification. This part is indeed hilarious. The rest of the supposed humour, no matter how badly it wishes to take the case of your garden-variety romcom, falls way below the intended mark. Even the whole satirisation of the necessary ‘slo-mo’ running sequence (adding its own rip-off of the same, just to prove a point) seems too forced to be effective.
Isabella’s (Priyanka Chopra) introduction as a Yoga ambassador is quite ludicrous, to be honest, because there’s no such designation, in reality. In all fairness to Isn’t It Romantic, Natalie scoffs at this too, asking several times, “What does that really mean?” As you can imagine, there is a big reveal towards the end, as Natalie comes to realise (in her forced fantasy) what life is all about. While it may not necessarily be a film worthy of high praise, it surpasses your average romantic comedy that perpetuates an unrealistic notion of beauty standards, relationships, and love. It could have been a great deal funnier and more out-of-the-box, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it isn’t worth a watch. Instead of selecting a regular romcom to fill two hours of your day with, perhaps you can consider Isn’t It Romantic. If you go in with low expectations, it might just end up being more watchable than you thought.
(Isn’t It Romantic will be available for streaming on Netflix from February 28)