movies

"I watched Rebel Wilson's controversial new romantic comedy and it was pretty confronting."

Romantic comedies have always been the very worst kind of frenemies.

They pretend they want the best for you by providing you with a touch of romance and laughter, but in reality they are working from the inside to crush your dreams and destroy your life.

The eye-rolling way we’ve come to view this particular movie genre is what makes Rebel Wilson’s new romantic comedy offering Isn’t It Romantic so very intriguing, as it promises to deliver women from the tyranny of movie expectations that have held us captive for so long.

Of course, before the film was even released it was hit with a few little stings of controversy, as movies that try and reinvent themselves for a more realistic female audience always are.

The first rumble took place after Rebel Wilson appeared on The Ellen Show and said “I’m proud to be the first-ever plus-sized girl to be the star of a romantic comedy” before being called out for the inaccurate statement and issuing an apology via Twitter.

Then there was the announcement that the movie, despite being helmed by Aussie stars Rebel and Liam Hemsworth, would not be getting the big screen release roll-out it enjoyed in America.

Instead, you can now watch it in Australia on Netflix from today and I suggest you do so with a bias-free mind, because there is a hell of a lot to take in.

Isn’t It Romantic centers on New York City architect Natalie (Rebel Wilson) a 30-something lifelong cynic when it comes to love who is nursing a deep-seated hatred of romantic comedies because her mother told her as a child that “things like that don’t happen to women like us”.

Aussie stars Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth star in Isn't It Romantic. Source: Netflix.

After being attacked by a mugger on a subway station platform, Natalie is knocked unconscious and wakes up in hospital, with a devastatingly handsome doctor leaning over her, to find herself trapped in her own worst nightmare - she is now the leading lady of her very own romantic comedy with no way to make the end credits roll.

Suddenly the stench-filled streets of New York smell like daisies and her formerly rude and jerkish client Blake (Hemsworth) is now head-over-heels in swoonville for her, sweeping down the street in a stretch limousine and scrawling his phone number on a series of scattered rose petals in hopes of securing a date.

ADVERTISEMENT

Every part of Natalie's life has now been made-over in cinema-friendly style. Her formerly drab workplace is now a colorful and bustling New York high-rise while her sweet yet mousy assistant Whitney has become her stylish and cruel work nemesis and her rude neighbor is now a flamboyant gay man with no life of his own outside of helping her with her problems.

At about this point in the film's description, you're probably picking up on the fact that there is nothing subtle about Isn't It Romantic. 

It doesn't just beat you over the head with its excessive need to satirically point out the unrealistic expectations permeated by romantic comedies, it practically breaks both your arms, rips out your hair and steals your wallet in its attempt to get the message across.

And while a lot of the message delivery is very heavy-handed, it does accurately hit home in some cases.

For instance, the opening scenes depicting Natalie's life as a single working woman in the city were so eerily on the money, with her cramped and dingy apartment, her long train commute surrounded by sweaty strangers wearing flats because nobody can actually walk around the streets in heels all day and not end up stumbling down the street like a newly-mobile toddler.

It was all so drainingly realistic and that I actually felt a welcome wave of relief wash over me when the familiar, comforting glossiness of rom-com world finally washed across my screen.

Up until Natalie's head injury, I had felt like I was watching a very confronting documentary series instead of lighthearted movie fare.

And, frankly, if I had wanted a hard hit of reality like that on a Thursday night, I would have thumbed through the pile of unpaid bills currently residing atop my refrigerator or even just take a moment to confront the idea that I've somehow replaced the need for human relationships with houseplants.

Thankfully the rest of this frothy movie distracted me from such real-life worries.

One of the strongest elements of Isn't It Romantic is the fact that Natalie's body, weight and appearance are never the butt of the jokes or the source of the humour, instead the comedy dial is aimed directly at the movie genre itself, skewing the unrealistic notions of life, love and sex it instills in women.

Now I don't know about anybody else, but the realisation for me that movie sex and real-life sex were very much distance cousins who bore no family resemblance to each other was a confronting one (did anyone else's mum tape rom-coms off the TV onto a VHS when you were a kid and conveniently leave out the sex scenes... just me? Okay.) and Natalie faces a similar conundrum in the film.

After she thinks she's figured out a way to escape the romantic comedy world, she does what any smart woman would do first, she tries to get in one night of mind-blowing sex with Hemsworth's Blake before he turns back into an uninterested jerk.

Unfortunately for her, however, rom-coms may be heavy on the sickly sweet romance but they are super low on the sex, which means every time Natalie attempts to ravish Blake her quickly movie cuts to the morning after and she is left to imagine what could have been.

ADVERTISEMENT

The biggest let-down of Isn't It Romantic is that it plays heavily upon the very worst rom-com trope of all. Which is the idea that a perfect, funny, pretty-handsome-now-that-I-look-at-him kind of guy is always waiting patiently somewhere in your orbit, and if only you would just give him a chance you b*tch you could live happily ever after together.

In this case, Natalie's perfect peripheral guy is her work buddy Josh (played by Rebel Wilson's Pitch Perfect love interest Adam DeVine) who she doesn't realise has a hidden crush on her until he's set to walk down the aisle with someone else.

Honestly, at this point in the movie I'm just feeling personally victimised.

Rebel Wilson as Natalie and Adam Devine as Josh in Isn't It Romantic. Source: Netflix.

Up until this moment, Isn't It Romantic was doing so well in its quest to (forcefully) turn romantic comedy cliches on their heads, but then they succumbed to the most irritating falsehood of all.

Let me tell you if I "really just looked" at the men in my orbit right now and "gave them a chance", my romantic conquest list would consist solely of the angry barista who hands me my coffee each morning, the building manager who I'm pretty sure is attempting to illegally rent out my parking space or the gigantic rat who runs aggressively down my street on bin day.

Despite this flaw, however, Isn't It Romantic is the perfect Netflix movie to settle down with this weekend. It makes the most of Wilson's trademark on-screen humour and is just sugary sweet enough to leave you with a feel-good tingle after the credits roll.

It may not completely re-write the rules of the rom-com, but it will make you forget the stack of bills atop your fridge for just a few hours.

Isn't It Romantic is available to watch now on Netflix. 

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???