Down with Love (2003)
Not Quite a Doris Day
At the risk of sounding like my mother, just stay perfectly still and let him get it over with - Vickie
As a fan of Doris Day and the romantic comedies she made during the 50s and 60s, most notably those with Rock Hudson, I sometimes feel sadness that they don't make movies like that anymore. So when I watched "Down With Love" I was intrigued to see how it would work because this is basically a 60s style romantic comedy, set in the 60s but made now. Basically it takes the central idea of many of Doris Day's romantic comedies and pays homage to them, recreating the era, the style, the fashion and innocence. Unfortunately it doesn't work, okay so it is fun and adds a nice twist to the old formula but it feels at times than rather that paying homage to 60s romantic comedies it is poking fun by making it feel cheesy.
Having written her book "Down With Love" Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger - Chicago) arrives in New York to hit the publicity trail and get women reading her guide to taking control of their sex lives. Journalist and serial womanizer Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor - Rogue Trader) is meant to interview Barbara for Know magazine but keeps on blowing her off, that is until she humiliates him on air by telling women everywhere Catcher is the sort of man they should avoid. Determined to get an expose on Barbara, Catcher takes on the alias of Zip Martin and sets about seducing Barbara to prove she isn't in control of her sex and love like her guide suggests, except things get messy when he falls for her and the truth comes out.
So to put it simply "Down with Love" takes the central idea that filled many of Doris Day's romantic comedies. We have Barbara Novak a career focussed, independent woman and we also have Catcher Block a serial dating bachelor, and they despise each other despite having never met. But in order to get an expose on Novak, Catcher pretends to be someone else but they end up falling in love, which of course leads to complications. As I said it is the same formula which many of Day's romantic comedies were built upon but it does then add a new twist to things, a new development which turns the tables. Some may like this added story development but for me it spoilt the spirit of the movie and also made it drawn out.
As well as taking the old formula of 60s romantic comedies "Down with Love" is also full of the same style, from the credits to the fashions. In fact everything from the simplistic camera techniques, the split screens for telephone calls as well as Renée Zellweger's hair style semi mimicking that of Doris's. But it does feel a little too false, a little too vibrant when it comes to colours and at times looks more like "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" than say "Pillow Talk". It still looks great and the sets are impressive but it does make it feel a little cheesy rather than just a recreation of the era.
And that aspect of being cheesy rather than a homage extends to both the dialogue and performances. Not only is the innuendo which fuels some of the dialogue not in the least bit subtle but both Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor seem to be delivering it in a tongue in cheek way. It just feels that rather than paying homage to the 60s romantic comedies it is poking fun at them which whilst some audiences may enjoy it didn't do it for me. Thankfully the rest of the performances are a little better and not only is it great to see Tony Randall, the third person in the Doris Day and Rock Hudson romantic comedies, having a cameo but the casting of David Hyde Pierce in a similar third person role is spot on as is Sarah Paulson as Vikkie Hiller.
What this all boils down to is that "Down With Love" whilst fun just didn't do it for me. Rather than being a fun homage to the 60s romantic comedies starring Doris Day it feels more like it is poking fun in a very cheesy way and not always fun for doing it.
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