My name’s Josh, and my guilty pleasure is Romantic Comedies.
Yup. I’ve seen more than most thirty-something males would care to admit: the Julia Roberts collection; the Meg Ryan anthology; and in modern days, the Katherine Heigl compilation. Which may inform at least some of the reasoning behind my perpetual inability to hold down a long-term relationship, but let’s not get too far into that at the moment.
I looked upon the face of Isn’t It Romantic with the slightest hint of disdain and apathy, and scrolled through to see what else on Netflix might take my fancy, but ultimately, I decided to give Rebel Wilson a go after all. Like many Australian comics, my personal opinion of Wilson tends to be a bit of a roller-coaster affair. Loved her in Pitch Perfect (apart from the Tassie gag), but wasn’t so keen on her in the sequel when they took the caricature they’d already made and piled another caricature on top of it, as American productions are wont to do. I thought she was great with what she was given in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and then was a little underwhelmed by How to be Single.
So, with the choice between seeing how far I would have to dig into Netflix to find something I actually felt like watching, and just giving this movie a go, I picked Isn’t it Romantic and sat there, alone, to watch Rebel Wilson both rely on and poke fun at the tropes of the Romantic Comedy genre.
Wilson plays Natalie, simultaneously the stereotype and antithesis of the Romantic Comedy leading lady. She’s charming and cute, but shy and doesn’t realise her own qualities; at the same time, she’s grown up in a shroud of insecurity about her own appearance, which lends itself to an intense hatred of Romantic Comedy movies.
So you can see what’s about to happen, right? On a New York Subway, Natalie gets mugged, and in the process finds herself knocked unconscious, only to wake up in an “Emergency Room,” with wide windows bathing the room in natural light, and a doctor who is far too attractive to be an ER doctor coming in to treat her. Of course, the real giveaway is when she walks out of the hospital and is hit by a Hemsworth in a limousine who finds her beguiling.
What follows is a step-by-step tour through the greatest of Romantic Comedy tropes, most of which we’re expecting because they were all listed by Natalie in her highly-detailed rant against the genre prior to receiving the head wound that knocked her into the leading role in her own Romantic Comedy. On the one hand it’s a jibe at every romantic comedy ever made, and at the same time, it’s somewhat of an homage – perhaps by design.
Wilson definitely gives one of her better performances in this role. She’s funny, witty, and likeable throughout the role. Instead of falling into a script filled with clichés and fat jokes, we find a script that’s entertaining and light-hearted without being crude, and crass – well, most of the time, anyway. Her supporting cast are restricted by a distinct lack of depth provided to their characters, which is expected when it comes back to the various tropes that each is playing, but they each provide their moments of joy throughout the course of the tale, with Brandon Scott Jones a particular standout as the gay best friend.
The concern I always have in going into a film like this one is the danger of a typecast lead. It would have been very easy to just have Wilson play another version of “Fat Amy,” in the film, but instead, we are actually presented with a realistic and genuine-feeling character, and I think that’s what really made this one work for me.
It’s light-hearted, with plenty of humorous moments that will inspire most people to laughter, and most of all, you’ll likely leave it with a smile, and isn’t that really the essence of a rom-com, anyway?