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Laramie Movie Scope:
Down With Love

A retro screwball romantic comedy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 19, 2003 -- “Down With Love” is a retro screwball romantic comedy lovingly made in the style of Doris Day and Rock Hudson comedies of the 1950s and 1960s. From the retro graphics at the beginning of the film, to the hot primary colors and pastels of the set and costume designs, this is a film for people who complain they don't make 'em like they used to. It even has Tony Randall, an actor who appeared in such Doris Day, Rock Hudson films as “Pillow Talk,” “Lover Come Back” and “Send Me No Flowers.”

Randall plays a publishing executive whose company has a big hit on its hands with the feminist anti-love book, “Down With Love,” written by Barbara Novak (played by Renée Zellweger of “Chicago”). Randall doesn't play a classic Randall character in the film. The guy who plays the real Randall character is David Hyde Pierce of “Full Frontal.” His character, Peter MacMannus is a guy who is not assertive and is unlucky at love. His friend, Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor of the “Star Wars” movie series and “Moulin Rouge” is a womanizing writer for a men's magazine.

Novak's book causes such a sensation that Block is no longer able to get dates. He vows revenge against Novak. He plans to romance her, and when she falls in love with him, he will expose her in a magazine article as being “just like every other woman” who wants love and marriage. MacMannus helps Block in his deception because he wants to romance Novak's literary agent, Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson of “What Women Want”). Block agrees to help MacMannus by giving him advice. The plot gets a lot more complicated by the end of the film, as a ridiculously convoluted scheme is unveiled. The plot is so outlandish the film probably qualifies as a screwball comedy, and as a satire on the genre. This kind of romantic comedy hasn't been seen since the last millenium. It probably will appeal to those who can remember this genre, while those unfamiliar with the genre probably just won't get it.

Zellweger and McGregor make a great romantic couple, with good support from Sarah Paulson and David Hyde Pierce. The script, by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, is sharp, fast and full of funny one-liners and double entendres, including a funny pun by a homosexual character right out of The Celluloid Closet. The real star of the show, however, is the great production design by Andrew Laws, art direction by Martin Whist and costume design by Daniel Orlandi (all of them worked on the film, “Phone Booth”). Set in 1962, the film is filled with appropriately vivid colors, including costumes just outrageous enough to be funny. The cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth (“One Hour Photo”) captures all this brightly lit detail perfectly. It is a visually stunning film. The music of the film is equally bright by Marc Shaiman (“Get Over it”). The soundtrack includes bouncy hits like Frank Sinatra's “Fly me to the Moon,” and Astrud Gilberto's version of the same song, along with an accompanying sexy horizontal split screen shot. This is a silly film, but it is a lot of fun. It rates a B.

It will be interesting to see how this film does at the box office. My theory is that films like this do well after a war. These kinds of films were common after World War II. When the nation is at peace, people seem to like dark, serious films, but when the country is in crisis, like it is now, with a bad economy and the threat of terrorist attacks, films like “Chicago” and “Down With Love,” ought to do a booming business.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)