I’ll cut straight to the chase, Isn’t It Romantic — directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and starring an ensemble cast including Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, and Adam Devine — is an intelligent, hilarious, good-hearted movie that is also a helluva-lotta fun to watch.
I was thoroughly prepared to hate this film. The first time I saw a trailer for it I was half asleep and didn’t really understand the premise. Like most comedies, I worried that the only funny bits were shown in the trailer or that all the jokes would be about Rebel Wilson’s size. And lastly, while I love Romantic Comedies as much as the next person, I’m aware they are complete fantasy and full of many cliches and sometimes harmful tropes.
However, all my fears about Isn’t It Romantic were cast away in the first 15-minutes. To me, a true sign of quality is cinematic self-awareness. Is a film aware that it is within a certain cinematic context? If it is self-aware, can it do something new and interesting within its genre while also avoiding the pitfalls of films that came before? And within minutes I knew this film was going to be good.
This is because Isn’t It Romantic knows it is a genre-film about a type of genre-filmmaking. It is a romantic comedy about romantic comedies. The whole gimmick is that Wilson’s humorously cynical character, Natalie, hits her head and wakes up in a rom-com — a PG-13 rom-com to boot. Because of this self-awareness, Isn’t It Romantic is able to intelligently make fun of every rom-com that came before while at the same time leaning in hard to the very tropes it is making fun of.
All For Love
Like every rom-com, Isn’t It Romantic is a film about a quest for love. This is the conflict and the axis about which the film turns. When Natalie wakes up in a rom-com, a bit like Phil in Groundhog Day, she immediately hates it. The New York she’s accustomed to has been replaced by a colorful, flowery, and picturesque New York (or any-city, USA). Everyone in her life, from friends to neighbors, are rom-com versions of themselves. And obviously, she is reluctant to become the rom-com version of herself.
She correctly guesses that in order to escape from this nightmare, she has to lean into the rom-com-i-ness of it all and get someone to fall in love with her. I won’t spoil all the fun but it involves quick engagements, musical dance numbers, and a few love-triangles. It all culminates in one of the most satisfying lessons-learned I’ve seen on-screen in a long time.
All in all, I was extremely impressed with how well Isn’t It Romantic intelligently navigated sticky, tired, and worn out tropes. It breathed new life into a genre that needed resuscitation in our post #metoo world. Through its self-awareness, it is able to critically reconstruct a genre from the ground up. Wilson and crew do a fantastic job pulling this all together and deserve the accolades.
Oh — and did I mention that Isn’t It Romantic is also genuinely funny? In no way is this film so weighed down with meta-commentary that it loses its humor. In fact, it is precisely because it’s funny that it succeeds. After all, rom-coms aren’t just films about romance, they also need to be funny as hell. Isn’t It Romantic succeeds on both fronts.
So for this Valentines weekend of love, take your lover, partner, friend — or better yet, just take yourself — to the movies. Get some popcorn and candy. Show yourself a good time. Because in this day and age the love we need is the love we give to ourselves.
Want to read more in prep for Valentine’s Day? Feeling…Romantic?
Check out Emily’s piece on Nora Ephron’s masterpiece in Julie & Julia.