Starring: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Sarah Paulson
Director: Peyton Reed
Running Time: 101 mins
Down With Love is an American film about an author who releases a hit book that women all around the world take to their hearts as they seek independence from men. However, a dashing but arrogant magazine writer is not so sure, and sets out to expose the author’s true nature.
Paying homage to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies of the late 50s/early 60s, Down With Love is an undoubtedly energetic tribute, albeit a rather strange one. It hits a lot of the right beats in recreating the classic films, but then at times also fires well wide of the mark.
The first half hour of the film in particular is evidence enough for why the tribute here doesn’t always work. Laying on the homage way too heavy from the start, Down With Love is almost insufferable during the opening act as it tries to force its ultra-60s vibe in frantic fashion.
What’s even stranger is just how fast-paced the film is from the start, and all the way to the end. Though not slow films, the Day/Hudson rom-coms of the era weren’t exactly as frenetic as Down With Love is. And that’s an example of where this film really misses the mark with its almost excessively energetic tribute.
Also, as part of that frantic pace, the film feels far too campy and silly to be a real, earnest homage. In fact at times, it feels more like a parody than an actual tribute, making you feel like you should laugh at the characters and the story, rather than laughing along with it.
However, Down With Love does have a lot of nice tidbits harking back to the likes of Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back. From the use of split screen, costume and set design to the main story itself, there are a good few details that this film gets right, and it’s nice to see them crop up again in a more modern context.
In fact, it’s when the tribute is most accurate that the film is as its best. Particularly once the case of mistaken identity (a direct link to Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back) kicks in, the film is far more engaging and enjoyable than a frantic collection of references and homage, proving a fun play on the trope that’s just as pleasant to watch as the original movies.
The film’s ending is a little far-fetched for its own good, bringing the movie to a bit of a mediocre finish as Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor’s slightly odd relationship reaches its peak.
The pair are pleasant enough to watch on screen, but they really don’t have the same blend of fluffy and fiery love-hate chemistry of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, and the film’s attempts to subvert some of your expectations in their relationship aren’t executed amazingly, which does their on screen pairing few favours.
Overall, Down With Love is a bit of an odd film. On the surface, it’s a light-hearted and fun-loving play on classic romantic comedies, and if you watch it with your brain turned off, it’s bound to make you smile.
However, as an homage to those classic movies, the film flounders, with nice tidbits and references undermined by misjudged tribute and a bizarrely frantic atmosphere throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Down With Love a 6.6.