Every so often, some films come along that embrace the genre they’re a part of and poke fun at it in all the right places. Isn’t It Romantic is just such a contender that attempts this, tying up all the familiar (heart)beats that put a rom-com together in a little red bow but somehow still gets knotted up in them, as well.
At the centre of it all is Natalie (Rebel Wilson), a self-aware woman who isn’t loving herself at the moment. Stuck in a job where she doesn’t get the respect she’s working to obtain, going home alone to be greeted by a dog that doesn’t even acknowledge her, Natalie’s not striving for some New York meet-cute moment, because she knows they don’t exist.
If this already sounds like the life of a leading lady in a romantic comedy, that’s because it is – but don’t tell Natalie that. She’s a denier of all things rom-com, soured by the movies where the girl gets the guy thanks to a firm slap of reality provided by her mother in her younger years (provided by a hugely underutilised Jennifer Saunders). This knowledge of a plethora of films she detests does her head in so much, that after a bop on the head following a subway mugging she wakes up to a world that has gone full rom-com.
Here is where Isn’t It Romantic writer Erin Cardillo completely goes to town, firing Cupid’s arrow at any classic laugh-filled love story he can take a shot at, and for the most part he meets his target. Every stranger Natalie bumps into is a handsome one, with a smile that could stop traffic and immediately smitten with our leading lady. That includes her new client played by Liam Hemsworth, who’s saccharine efforts to woo her demonstrate that the funny bones are strong in the family and he and his brothers need to make a comedy like, tomorrow.
The trope checklist continues with the stereotypical gay best friend she never had before. Where does he work? What’s going on with him? Doesn’t matter, here’s a makeover montage into a classic Pretty Woman outfit. Moments like this are where Isn’t It Romantic delivers but ultimately becomes slightly hypocritical.
Wilson provides plenty of laughs as always, as the voice of reality for films like Pitch Perfect and How To Be Single, she’s just as loud here. The issue is that though her character and the film may be wise to the typical checklist of guy meets girl, both struggle to acknowledge it about themselves. Natalie may be enraged by her own inner monologue but doesn’t address her work colleague (Adam Devine) who’s firmly in the friend zone and gagging to get off the bench. She moans about having some architecture job in New York, but you know, it’s still an architecture job, and it is in New York. In the end, love is all around this film, whether it likes it or not.