If you aren’t in the mood for a rom com but are in the mood for something fluffy, light and romantic but not quite as stupid as a rom com, Isn’t It Romantic is your choice. You get a film that deconstructs rom coms while actually being a rom com. Perfect. Rebel Wilson does her thing as kooky earthy Aussie chick Natalie who gives her bestie at work a lecture on the false premise of rom coms. Bestie is played by the stunning Betty Gilpin, Liberty Belle in Glow, charismatic comedy actor extraordinaire; unfortunately hers is only a tiny part. Early scenes have chubby child Natalie watching Pretty Woman with Jennifer Saunders as her mum trying to put on an Aussie accent (this bit’s funny) and telling her that these kinds of stories never happen to ‘girls like us’. Mum never spells out exactly why not and nor does the film, because you don’t want to start unpacking classism, sexism and body image, erotic capital or lack thereof and misogyny in a rom com.
Natalie scorns romance. The lack of interest on the part of fellas, we assume, comes from the fact that she’s too fat and too smart. (Hey, it worked for me!) Natalie’s career isn’t going anywhere cos everyone takes her for granted, except nice guy Josh (Adam Devine).
The she receives a bump on the head in the subway and wakes up in an impossible dream in a a bright shiny New York smelling sweet with cupcakes* and flowers on every corner, in a dream where she ‘s impossibly rich and successful and the impossible wealthy hunk (Liam Hensworth (whose voice doesn’t match his abs, but who’s listening), flies her off to the Hampton in his ‘copter. Nice guy Josh gets to have a romance with the impossibly gorgeous swimwear model/’yoga ambasssador,’ Priyanka Chopra. Neighbour (Brandon Scott) turns into bitch-queen gay best friend, a funny deconstruction of another trope.
The awakening of Natalie comes after her realisation and declaration that the one she must love is herself! Then another bonk on the head and voila! Back to grimy reality, thank God. But now she’s no longer everyone’s coffee bitch. The final reveal scene between her and Josh back in the office is nicely done.
The message of the film is that Natalie’s the one who’s not available to love due to having her defences up. Not (see above). This film isn’t only for women, it is also for the ordinary nice guy possibly in danger of becoming an incel. Just be patient, Nice Guy, and for the love of God, stay nice.
Isn’t It Romantic put me in a good mood. If you like this, you’ll like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, also on Netflix, similar humour, similar themes, next level up.
*Cupcakes. Penny Arcade, native New Yorker and powerful deconstructor of aspirational heteronormative culture, performed a show in the Spiegeltent here in Melbourne a few years ago. New York is no longer NY, she said, and the ultimate symbol of the gentrification and homogenisation of her city is the cupcake.