Back to the Sixties
As a confirmed movie addict, I've seen all those old Doris Day romantic comedies like Pillow Talk and loved every one of them. So why did I enjoy Down with Love, a 2003 parody of these flicks, so much? Could it be because Ewan McGregor out-charms any of Day's co-stars of the 1960s, including handsome hunks like Rock Hudson and James Garner? Or because Renee Zellweger dresses even better in this movie than Doris Day did in her films? A little of both, I think. But mostly, it's the sheer fun projected by everything in Down with Love -- from its appealing actors to its period sets, elaborate costumes, witty dialogue and evocative background music.
The year is 1962. Small-town girl Barbara Novak (Zellweger) has written DOWN WITH LOVE, a self-help book explaining how women can be empowered if they forget about love. She advises casual sex and chocolate as substitutes. Journalist Catcher Block (McGregor), a cocky Hugh Hefner/James Bond sorta guy, avoids interviewing the feminist author until her book becomes a best seller. Fearing Novak's philosophy is a threat to his playboy lifestyle, Block decides to make the popular writer fall in love with him. How? By pretending to be Zip Martin, a shy astronaut who believes in celibacy until true love comes along. He will then write an article exposing Novak as a fraud.
As we all know, the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go awry. Block and Novak fall for each other in spite of themselves. And they have lots of help along the way from their friends, played hilariously by David Hyde Pierce and Sarah Paulson, who also become attracted to each other.
McGregor and Zellweger are marvelous together as they toss zingers back and forth. He simply oozes overconfident masculinity as Catcher Block and fake sensitivity as Zip Martin; she uses her trademark pinched-face expression to comic advantage here. My only complaint is that numerous scenes throughout this film cry out for the addition of singing and dancing. Down with Love should have been a musical. I know what you're thinking. "She wants every movie to be a musical." Yes, but this one REALLY should be one. When you see the terrific number the two stars perform during the film's closing credits you'll know what I mean. Although Zellweger failed to impress me with her musical talent in Chicago, she shines as McGregor's partner. And, while McGregor already proved his vocal ability in Moulin Rouge, he's more playful and fun to watch in this Down with Love routine. I wanted more!
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated "PG-13" for sexual humor and dialogue.)