DOWN WITH LOVE: DVD
When Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger) hits New York in 1962 with her ‘pink’
feminist book Down With Love, women all over New York, indeed the world, fall in love with
her proposition that love is a distraction; women should swear off love and do what they
want, earn equal pay and have sex like men. Anytime, anywhere, with anyone. Playboy
journalist Catch Block (Ewan McGregor) agrees to write about her for his neurotic
publishing boss Peter McMannus (David Hyde Pierce), who wants to get close enough to woo
Barbara’s splendid editor, Vikki (Sarah Paulson). Catch’s intention is to
ridicule Barbara as a typical spinster who actually wants nothing but marriage herself.
But Catch doesn’t factor in Barbara Novak’s unpredictable and sassy war plan.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Here’s a gay, nay, high camp, romantic comedy that’s so old fashioned it’s
positively fresh. Especially for anyone who’s too young to recall 1962 in New York.
About May and June. With its stillettos firmly in the sun-softened asphalt of box hats,
swinging jazz and the stirrings of women’s lib, Down With Love toys with serious
issues but flings them about with gay abandon. Ooops, there’s that word again. My,
how infectious it is. But you see, the heroine doesn’t bed the hero – just talks
about wanting to a lot, like in the old movies.
The script is a throwback to the classic Hollywood comedies when people actually listened
to clever dialogue between fractious stars like Rock Hudson and Doris Day, because the
repartee was a weapon in the wars of the sexes. Always good copy and a great source of
comedy. Overlayed with contemporary sensibilities about sex, Down With Love juggles the
plot so that we are forever kept in suspension as the destined lovers dance around in a
mock fight to the death.
And there’s so much business in the film, you’ll go ga-ga trying to keep up,
from the Judy Garland throw-away to the larger than life fashion plates. But ultimately it
runs on the enormous energy levels generated by its two leads, as well as the memorable
David Hyde Pierce, and from talent-rich Marc Shaiman’s unashamedly camp score, a
loving tribute to the songs and tunes of his no doubt misspent youth. On second thoughts,
it only seems camp in the context of the film, whereas in fact they are just damn good
show tunes (augmented by jazz evergreens).
Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor stomp through the film, and while Zellweger is her
usual irrepressible, irresistible self, it takes time to accept Scottish lad Ewan McGregor
as the ultra smooth playboy who eventually falls on his sword to become a gooey mess. (But
then he had practiced romantic in Moulin Rouge…) Lights, camera, action and wardrobe
are on 24 hour stand by in this production, and they are just as important as the plot or
the performances. In fact, it’s McGregor’s wardrobe that saves him in many
scenes. It’s all about style and how to tell an escapist story which deep down has
some meat. I enjoyed it for its exuberance and wit, and you’ll either love it or hate
it. Cynics will hate it, gays will love it and the rest of you can decide on the day.
Published December 18, 2003
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DOWN WITH LOVE: DVD (M)
CAST: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Paulson, Tony Randall
DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed
SCRIPT: Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen
SPECIAL FEATURES: none
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: Rental) December 10, 2003; (Retail) March 24, 2004