There are actors and actresses who can “sell me a ticket,” as I put it. You know; they are the reason you go to a particular movie.
Rebel Wilson is not one of them.
I have nothing against her. What I had seen of her work didn’t really make me a fan. Or hate her on sight. (I saw one or two episodes of her ABC sitcom, whatever it was called. Haven’t seen the “Pitch Perfect” movies)
Same with Adam Devine.
And Liam Hemsworth, although I enjoy living on a planet with multiple Hemsworths. The idea of standing in the middle of them is an entertaining one.
Nothing against any of them, but none of them have ever motivated me to buy a movie ticket.
And yet, I went to “Isn’t It Romantic?”.
Part of my motivation was that I wanted something undemanding and stupid. My expectations were exceeded. What could have been a light-hearted and witty handling of skewering a genre turned out to be leaden, heavy-handed, and a waste of talent.
The plot: our heroine, Natalie, watched a shit ton of romantic comedies as a child and eventually turned on them. We have the near-standard “hit your head and end up in a parallel universe” (I think we blame “The Wizard of Oz” for that one) where the entire world is romantic comedy clichés. Of course, she fights against all of it, comes up with a big message, and wakes up back in her world, the end.
I seldom want to walk out on a movie, but this one, I wanted to run. However, since I saw it as part of my AMC A-List, I couldn’t get a refund, so I stuck it out. What can I say? Sometimes I’m a masochist.
If you don’t know me already, let me tell you something about myself: I’m fat. This will be important in a sec. I have a friend who prefers the term “juicy girl,” which (for the moment. That’s another post) is not as laden with negative baggage as the word “fat.” Going forward, we will talk about Rebel Wilson in juicy girl terms.
Here’s what REALLY bugged me about this movie: facial inequality or inter-facial dating, as I’ve seen it called.
Natalie (Rebel Wilson) has a professional job, architect. Not assistant or support staff or office manager. She is one of the ones to be assisted. She is smart, she’s gainfully employed (I wouldn’t judge it by her “In Real Life” (IRL) apartment because rents in New York City are ridiculous. She may be living in a closet, but she’s not sharing it with 3 other people). She is making it on her own. In actual real life, she’d be considered a good match (Honey, romance and falling in love at first sight is great for storytelling, but stability keeps things fresher longer). In the movie, she spies Blake (Liam Hemsworth) and falls in lust with him (Mama Hemsworth has some very handsome sons), while being friends with Josh (Adam Devine) whom she thinks is lusting after the woman in an ad. She is ignored by Blake while she ignores Josh. I would ignore Josh. Adam Devine is a skilled comic actor, but he’s not a Hemsworth by any stretch.
In the parallel head bonk universe, Blake Handsome falls in love with her, Josh Friend falls for the woman in the ad, Blake turns out to have jerk tendencies, and at the last minute, she realizes it’s been Josh all along blah blah blah.
We’re living in a world where the importance of representation is finally dawning on Hollywood, but it’s missing from this piece.
What we’re seeing here is reinforcement that fat people are not supposed to be with “pretty” people. Fat has been successfully demonized for decades as a moral failing, a physical manifestation of weakness and shame, and proof of a person’s bad character. If you want to see a fat person depicted as human, capable of being loved and admired, go see “Stan & Ollie” (which is EXCELLENT). And even then, they put John C. Reilly in a fat suit.
Fat women get short shrift in romance. It’s only in the fantasy realm that Natalie is considered a suitable partner for handsome, successful Blake. In her “real world,” she’s only good enough for Josh. As I said, Adam Devine is a very skilled comic actor, but he’s not a leading man.
Let’s let that sink in: the leading lady in a romantic comedy does not get the leading man type. Rebel Wilson is capable of leading a romantic comedy, but they’re not letting her get the handsome guy as, perhaps, Anna Kendrick or Jennifer Lawrence would have.
Yes, Blake is a jerk and Josh is a better person. However, I think other filmmakers would have engineered things a bit differently for another actress with another attractive (not necessarily Hemsworth) man in the Josh role, but with glasses and schlumpy clothing until the big reveal.
Why can’t fat people be seen as attractive? Would it upset the diet industry too much? Would it put Marie Osmond out of a job shilling for Nutrisystem? Too many billions of dollars at stake to let Rebel Wilson be anything more than a joke or second banana. (This thing needs to fail and when it does, they’ll blame her, not the crappy writing and execution)
Melissa McCarthy is revered. And she led a successful sitcom for years on “Mike & Molly.” Once again, though (and I enjoy the show in reruns. Great comic cast), she was paired with someone who was not a leading man (again, Billy Gardell is a deft standup and comic actor, but he’s not a Hemsworth).
In “Isn’t It Romantic?”, the pretty people are depicted as ultimately vain and shallow (another stereotype) and not worthy of love. But, I think the was to reinforce Josh as a more suitable choice for Natalie.
(Here’s where I honk my own horn)
I wrote “These Foolish Things” which depicts two people in their forties falling in love for the first time. Ty is Hemsworth (or Clooney) handsome and successful, Liz is overweight (not necessarily fat), has a professional career, lives on her own, and is a good, stable match. She’s insecure because, well, fat is a moral failing, dontcha know?
I wrote this as a response to all the romantic stories depicting the leads as twenty-somethings with perfect looks. I get escapism, but c’mon. How many kidnappings by motorcycle gangs, vampires, shape shifters, nobles in disguise, vampire motorcycle gangs, and undiscovered fashion models are too many?
Why not have a story where one could easily see herself as the heroine? “Hey! She’s like me!”
Are we trying to convince people who don’t fit the current model of beauty that they are not attractive? Of course, we’ve got a President* – who was just officially declared obese – who calls women who oppose him “fat pigs.” When I’ve been attacked on social media, the first thing they go for (usually men) is my weight or my looks (with makeup and hair done, I look okay. Without, meh). Men are usually running the studios and deciding which films get made under what conditions. What came out with the #MeToo movement was stories of male film execs making casting decisions on whether or not they thought a particular actress was “fuckable.” Not seeing much change going on.
What we have is a celluloid world (well, technically it’s digital these days) that refuses to depict juicy girls as genuine romantic leads. (I’ve seen pictures of these guys. They’re not Hemsworths)
So much for representation.
Even if you are a huge Rebel Wilson/Adam Devine/Liam Hemsworth fan, save your money on this one. “Isn’t It Romantic?” isn’t.