|Though this film is definitely a more entertaining experience for members of the audience who already possess an appreciation for the Doris Day, Rock Hudson movies of the 1960's, viewers unfamiliar with that time period's fun sex romps might find themselves clamoring to the video store to rent those titles after viewing this highly energetic film. Anchored by expert performances and high production values, Down With Love is as mindlessly entertaining as a film can get. While it is much more a mixture of today's feminist concerns and yesterday's furniture and music than a straight homage to the early 1960's (like, for example, Far From Heaven), the film is still a worthwhile experience for audience members who simply want to be entertained.|
It is rare that a film can be such an enjoyable experience without asking anything of the audience in return, yet not sink to the level of a gross-out comedy. While baser types of comedic films certainly have their value (who doesn't like fart jokes every once in a while?), Down With Love is pure fluff that asks for nothing but its audience's attention. Which is certainly easy to give with such fine performances from the lead actors. In the two lead roles, Renée Zellweger (as a feminist author) and Ewan McGregor (as a "man's man, ladies man, man about town" playboy) have a suitable amount of chemistry with one another and milk their roles for every laugh they're worth.
Part of the reason this film is so enjoyable is that nothing was spared by the actors to give giant, enthusiastic performances. From Zellweger's perky walk to McGregor's swinging moves, the movie almost resembles a stage play in some respects. It's as if the actors were projecting their mannerisms and voices to the last row of the audience (as stage actors are taught). With the bubbly set dressings and picture perfect sky-lines, nothing about this film resembles what one might actually have seen in 1960's New York City. Instead, it's what viewers would have witness had they actually attended a like-minded film in that decade.
One of the most noticeable things about this film, and one of the most interesting aspects of the production is the soundtrack. Sounding as if were plucked and stolen directly from a film of the era, the musical score and songs litter just about every second of screen time from start to finish. Even when characters are having conversation which, in today's films, might not be accompanied by music, there is usually the tinkling of a few instruments in the background or in other cases, a full-on orchestra providing some sound. The intensity of the score actually takes one off guard at first because it is so unlike anything that might appear in films today.
The filmmakers should be quite proud that their film is so close to an original, even if "purists" may decipher some differences (such as the absence of Rock Hudson and Doris Day). Part of the charm of those films was the romantic chemistry (however ironic it may have been) between Hudson and Day. And while Zellweger and McGregor aren't the original duo, they still make a good effort at making the audience believe they're really falling for one another.
Zellweger, in particular, will wow the audience with an extended monologue near the end of the film which carries on a good three or four minutes. In an age when scenes and shots are chopped up into as many different angles and cuts as is mathematically possible, seeing Zellweger have it out on screen for what must have been an entire page's worth of dialogue was entertaining to say the very least.
What should win over die-hard fans of the Day/Hudson films and also recruit new fans though is the attention to detail concerning the production design and the mindlessly fluffy plot of the film that would probably paint a smile on even the most hardened cynic's face. The screenwriters, Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake (both story contributors to the forthcoming Legally Blonde sequel) help the lead stars along quite a bit with snappy dialogue that benefits from editor Larry Bock's close attention to pacing. The film is around one-hundred minutes long but seems much shorter, which is definitely a plus because of how quickly the film grabs one's attention after the opening credits roll.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.