Rom-com parody that boasts an enjoyably knowing performance from Rebel Wilson
It's not so much love but irony that's in the air in Isn't It Romantic, a glossy satire which relies heavily enough on the traditions it is attempting to skewer that it rather undermines its own point. Still, a down-to-earth, knowing performance from Rebel Wilson, together with a welcome twist on a Hollywood happy ending, is enough to make this film from Todd Strauss-Schulson (The Final Girls) work.
Wilson is cynical New Yorker Natalie, who wakes up after a bump on the head to find everything smelling of roses… literally. The Big Apple has become a Technicolor wonderland, her apartment has doubled in size, she beguiles every man she meets and boasts both a gay best friend and an equally-as-fabulous wardrobe. She is, in short, trapped in a romantic comedy. As her disbelief turns to frustration and then desperation, she realises her best chance of escape is to find love; but, to make any real connections, she is forced to look inwards.
Wilson is the rudder which keeps Isn't It Romantic moving in the right direction; her sarcastic responses and eye-rolling reactions to the things happening around her are a constant reminder of the unrealistic (and outdated) messages offered by myriad identikit rom-coms. 'He's setting gay rights back 100 years,' she rightly remarks of mincing bestie Donny (Brandon Scott Jones), while one of the best gags sees her attempts to have sex repeatedly scuppered by the genre's PG-13 outlook.
Despite Wilson's efforts, and that of an energetic supporting cast including Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine and Priyanka Chopra, it's a disappointment that the screenplay approaches the genre's most cloying cliches with wry affection, rather than a sharpened sword. And Natalie's own journey to self-acceptance is also something of a tired trope, although the film's final message – embodied in a joyous, full-cast, intricately-choreographed rendition of Madonna's 'Express Yourself' – is one that should be shouted from the rooftops at every opportunity.
Available to watch on Netflix from Thu 28 Feb.