Remember those kitschy, campy bedroom comedies of the 50's and 60's?
Well, the Masked Reviewer doesn't. Fortunately, the handicaps of youth
are offset by the miracles of DVD and VHS, and the Masked Reviewer has
been able to see several of them. For today's audiences, these types of films
(most notably Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson and Doris Day) seem
quaint and mildly entertaining. Today, though, most of the
entertainment comes from watching a macho womanizer (played by a
closeted gay man) hitting on a small town prudish girl (played by a
woman who couldn't get enough sex and heroin).
Down with Love attempts to recreate the feel of these
comedies. While it's easy to see why some people might enjoy this
style of film, the fact is that these films always relied on the charm
of their stars. All films of the 60's bedroom comedy have several
things in common. Sexual innuendo. Elements of farce.
And, invariably, one or more main characters is living some elaborate
lie that is discovered, resulting in a sad moment, but all is either
forgiven or works out for the best in the end. The jokes in these
comedies aren't the kind you try to re-tell; there's a lot of slapstick
and big double-takes and reaction shots. The enjoyment comes from
seeing the charm of the actors.
Not in Down with Love, though. Oh, where to start?
While the actors all have their own charms (Ewan McGregor, Renée
Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Paulson, and Tony Randall), they
don't carry the film. They drag it along, by the hair.
Through the mud.
The Masked Reviewer doesn't understand the widespread appeal of
Zellweger. She's known as a Hollywood hottie, but why? She
looks like a woman who believes she's much better looking than she is.
Squinting and contorting her mouth to the side doesn't look cute.
She looks like she just tasted something unpleasant. She's
reminiscent of a chipmunk with cheeks full of lemons.
But even if you love Zellwegger, there's more not to like.
In the 60's (and late 50's), these films used subtle sexual innuendo.
You knew what they were trying to say, even though it was subtle.
The filmmakers decided that this tribute to period films should be
contemporized with really obvious innuendo. Double-entrendre is
gone. There's a lot of single-entendre. It seems like the
writers came up with a list of "naughty" sounding words and created
situations around them. Terms like "waylaid", "titular", and
"something sprung up" aren't funny or shocking. They also tried to
put a spin on the split screen effect used in films like Pillow Talk,
to simulate sex. It's a fine idea, but they didn't do
a particularly good job, then they overdid it.
The pacing of the film isn't good. It has the feel of a bad Fox
sitcom. Everything is played very broadly, with big beats and the
intended funny moments are accentuated by orchestrations in the soundtrack.
It's awkward and hard to watch. If the cast were clearly having
fun, it might have played better, but they weren't and it didn't.
It's hard not to get the feeling, though, that all the actors were a bit
unsure of whether the concept would work, so they were a bit timid at
times, and tried too hard other times.
What might be classified as "the big joke" in the film is an
agonizingly long solo exposition toward the end of the film. It's
supposed to be funny because it's preposterous, and long, and the camera
doesn't cut away or move for several minutes. However, what was
supposed to be hilariously funny was just a lame wrap-up that made no
Down with Love is not an homage to anything because they lost
the charm of what they're paying tribute to. It's not a spoof
because they don't go far enough with making fun of the genre.
It's just "evocative", not to be confused with "provocative", or
Certainly there will be some people who like this film.
Undoubtedly there will even be a few who love it. For these
people, it will be a bit of nostalgia, or "wannabe nostalgia". The
very concept of doing this kind of film will appeal to some people so
much that they won't care about any shortcomings. The Masked
Reviewer thought the film was great in concept, but in execution, it
just falls flat. If you go to the film expecting absolutely
nothing...you'll be happy, because that's what you get. Even Tony
Randall can't save this film.
The one upside to the film, which will be enough for some people to
convince themselves that it's a good movie, is the design. The
recreation of New York City in 1963 is fun to look at. The
highlight for the Masked Reviewer was the fact that, when riding in cabs
in the film, the stock footage used for the rear projection (the scenery
passing by) was beautifully restored. They even had a shot of the
Met-Life building, digitally reverted to the Pan Am building.
The clothes, the apartments, the offices...they're rich and colorful and
definitely set the mood. Unfortunately, the writing and acting
re-set the mood to "tired of watching a crappy movie".
Some may think the Masked Reviewer is trite for bringing this up,
but...well...the film is chock full of anachronisms. Sadly, many
people form opinions of the real world based on what they see in movies,
and while no one should do that, it would be nice if a screenwriter
would do some research once in a while. Houdini didn't die in the
water torture escape. If you shoot a hole in an airplane bulkhead,
no one will be sucked out through the hole. King Kong didn't die
by falling off the Empire State Building. He slipped in the
shower. With that in mind, here's some things that are out of
place for 1963:
McGregor also has some strange accent action in this movie. In
the beginning of the film you can't tell what he's trying to sound
like...American? English? Then, to make matters more
confusing, he adopts a Southern accent as a plot device. At one
point someone notices that his fake Southern accent disappeared on one
word...only to be replaced by his other fake accent.
There was a musically jarring scene cutting between two different
versions of "Fly Me to the Moon." Both versions are nice, but they
didn't work well together. Why does the Masked Reviewer
mention this? These relatively small faults served as a welcome
sanctuary from the horrible stinkiness of the rest of the movie.
The really disturbing fact is that the director, Peyton Reed, is
slated to direct The Fantastic Four in 2005. Yikes.
His track record thus far (which includes Down with Love, Bring It
On, and several episodic TV versions of movies) doesn't give us much
Some people will like Down with Love. Some people liked Far from Heaven,
despite being hokey and uninspired. Why'd they like it? It
reminded them of something and nostalgia scores big with some people.
Others give more credit to a tribute film than it deserves. If you
like 60's bedroom comedies, you might like that someone made a film
honoring them. But if you take the movie for what it is, it's hard
to find anything tolerable, much less good about it. Go watch
How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life) with Dean Martin
instead. Is it good? Not really. But it's the real
thing, at least.
The opening title credits were nice.
Expectation from the Title: The true story of a man who gives
up his big city lifestyle to travel to Alaska and open a factory that
produces feather stuffing for pillows and winter jackets, and then he donates
the product to charity.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Ewan McGregor looks like the kind of nice young fellow who would
help an elderly lady across the street.
The Pros: The opening credits and the design of the film.
The Cons: Everything else. Pooey! Jedi mind tricks
aren't enough to make someone think this is watchable.