Down with Love

Like the recent Far From Heaven, Down with Love is an homage to movies from yesteryear. Down with Love pays tribute to the movies of Rock Hudson and Doris Day, while Far From Heaven pays its tribute to the films of Douglas Sirk. There is a huge difference between the two. Todd Haynes was able to inject many new levels of meaning into Sirk's style, updating in a sense for today's audiences. Down with Love does the opposite, and makes a film that looks and sounds like it was made in 1962. It is a great imitation, from all the musical flourishes (courtesy of composer Marc Shaiman, One Night at McCool's, Get Over It), bright colors, costumes, sets, and snappy dialogue. However, these movies were never that great to begin with. Down with Love manages to keep the same level of quality, so it's not that great either.

It is a classic battle of the sexes, between author Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger, Chicago, White Oleander) and magazine writer Catcher Block (Ewan MacGregor, Black Hawk Down, Attack of the Clones). Novak wrote a book called Down with Love that extolled the then unheard of ideas of female workplace equality. By eating lots of chocolate and sleeping around with men, they could achieve equality. Yes, it sounds corny, and that is the whole point of Eve Alhert and Dennis Drake's script. Block is every woman's dream, and he enjoys enjoying women. He believes that Novak is really a woman who wants to fall in love, so pretends to be an astronaut in the hopes of making Novak fall in love with him, then he can expose her for the fraud that she is.

Complicating matters are their bosses, Peter MacManus (David Hyde Pierce, Full Frontal, Osmosis Jones) and Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson, What Women Want, Held Up). MacManus has a huge crush on Vikki, who is trying to be a Down with Love type woman, so she is spurning him. They are powerful people, but shy and inexperienced with love, so they are the opposites of Block and Novak. So the movie switches between Novak and Block, who both have ulterior motives, but unbeknownst to each other and themselves, they are actually falling in love, and MacManus' futile efforts to woo Hiller.

So what director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Almost Beat) did was make a good imitation of a piece of trifle. The tone is light and playful but comes across as dull and tepid. Part of what should be fun is the quick and punchy dialogue, which comes across as out-dated. It's a comedy of errors (one more than one level) as Block's lies build upon each other and will eventually catch up with him. The one redeeming moment of Down with Love is a monologue by Zellweger near the end of the film where everything comes out into the open. She delivers it quickly and breathlessly, and it's zippy, smart, and a great performance. However, the rest of the film leaves much to be desired.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 10 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and dialogue.

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