PR = Personnel Relations
It would be fair to say that when it comes to most modern romantic comedies, the words unoriginal and predictable tend to come to mind. But "America's Sweethearts" is different because whilst it's a romantic comedy it's also a satire, poking fun at the movie industry and in particular the fakery of the way movies are promoted. As such "America's Sweethearts" is clever, funny, fast paced and also romantic as it delivers scene after scene of self defacing humour.
Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones - Entrapment) and Eddie (John Cusack - Con Air) are the darlings of Hollywood, the favourite married couple, a perfect partnership both on-screen and off. But when Gwen ends things with Eddie and starts a new romance with Spanish lover Hector (Hank Azaria) all that changes as their private life is played out in public. But with one more joint movie left to promote veteran press agent Lee (Billy Crystal - Forget Paris) and Gwen's assistant/sister Kiki (Julia Roberts - The Mexican) must work their magic so the public believe that Gwen and Eddie are back in love whilst keeping the truth away from the press. Which is all and well except that Kiki ends up falling in love with someone she least expected.
One of the best things about "America's Sweethearts" is that whilst a romantic comedy it is first and fore mostly a satire about the movie system. From the opening scenes where we watch a montage of Gwen and Eddie's movies through to the way Lee and Kiki manipulate the stars, every single scene is based on reality but funnily so. Watching Stanley Tucci as studio exec Dave Kingman basically flip out in the most over the top way is pure comedy and it just continues delivering scene after scene of humorous moments. And most of these funny scenes work because of some wicked sharp tongued dialogue which never fails to show the whole fake ness of promoting a movie and the lengths the PR men will go to get what they want.
And then of course there is the whole romance side of the storyline, as we watch Eddie longing to get back with Gwen whilst Kiki's feelings for Eddie come to the fore. But do you know what, "America's Sweethearts" isn't a hugely romantic movie, it's an extra layer to the movie which provides a bit of variation to all the caustic industry bashing. And as such the romance side of things works, because those few intentionally romantic scenes are not the main focus and don't just rehash set pieces used in other romantic comedies. Actually that's a bit of a lie, because there are some stereotypical scenes but they are crafted in such a way that they poke fun at themselves for being cliche.
What also makes "America's Sweethearts" such good fun is the wonderful cast most significantly Billy Crystal who is sublime as a fast talking, slick PR man. The way Crystal delivers every single scene, the element of thinking on his feet with a touch of sarcasm and the way he deals with people is just superb. But Crystal is not alone and Catherine Zeta-Jones is just as good as the utterly spoilt and totally false Gwen, constantly lying to try and protect her public image. And then there is John Cusack as Eddie, who delivers the wounded partner beautifully with those almost puppy dog eyes which makes you champion him. And topping off what is already a brilliant cast is Julia Roberts as Kiki the put upon sister of Gwen who lets be honest just has to smile and she wins you over.
But it's not just the main characters which makes "America's Sweethearts" such a fun movie. As already mentioned Stanley Tucci is great fun as Dave Kingman as is Christopher Walken as eccentric film maker Hal Weidmann. Hank Azaria delivers a wonderfully corny and over the top stereotype as Spanish lover Hector Gorgonzolas and Seth Green is amusing as wet behind the ears new PR man Danny Wax. But the best of these supporting performances and the one which gets the least time comes from an almost unrecognizable Alan Arkin as the wellness guide who spews out cookie style wisdom to Eddie in the wellness sanctuary.
What this all boils down to is that not only is "America's Sweethearts" a pleasant romantic comedy but it is also a cleverly written satire of the movie business. With a wonderful cast, some quirky characters, sharp dialogue and a brilliant pace it's a movie which puts a smile on your face early and keeps it there right till the end.