Down With Love

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Movie Review by Reece De Ville

Starring: Renee Zellwegger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Paulson, Tony Randall
Director: Peyton Reed

It’s the start of the 60’s sexual revolution and Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) is the guy every other guy wants to be. You know the type, ‘men call him Sir, women call him anytime. But he’s about to meet his match in Barbara Novak (Renee Zellwegger), author of the ultimate guide to female empowerment, ‘Down With Love’. Cue a battle for the sexes where there can be only one winner…

Peyton Reed’s DOWN WITH LOVE is an obvious, but heart warming, homage to the era of Rock Hudson and Doris Day, with its battling protagonists (who you just know, dagnabit, will resolve those differences before the end of the final reel) and witty, stylised, performances. It certainly treads a fine line at first as the style and pace of the film can be slightly disorientating, but once the characters settle in, particularly David Hyde Pierce’s wonderful turn as Catcher’s friend and editor, the film feels as homely and warm as mom’s apple pie.

Both McGregor and Zellwegger succeed in roles that, without a steady director’s hand, may well have wandered into the realms of mugging. The dual role of Catcher Block and his sensitive alter ego, Zip Martin, allows McGregor to shine and it’s clear that he’s enjoying dusting off his LIPSTICK ON YOUR COLLAR singing voice and tap shoes (not to mention laying down his trusty lightsabre – thank the lord). Perhaps this is the film to finally raise McGregor’s stock in Hollywood – indeed, from the first arrival of Catcher in a perfect white suit and black bow tie from a private helicopter, McGregor could well be mistaken for the younger, sexier brother of Mr Bond himself. Zellwegger is also great fun as the not-all-she-seems-to-be Barbara Novak and plays the 60’s liberated, but sexually confused, Doris Day role with a sparkling energy. It’s clear too that she has a great talent for singing and dancing, following on from her triumphant Oscar winning performance in CHICAGO (boy oh boy does Hollywood love a musical). The supporting cast are all well written with the comic timing of David Hyde Pierce (full of nervous, pent up sexual frustration) being of particular note.

Peyton Reed directs with great energy using split screens to hilarious effect and evoking the spirit of the screwball comedy. Indeed, it could be considered a brave step to release such a highly stylised film that, in truth, you may either love or hate. Yet, the film still has many subtle moments as Reed allows his actors to enjoy their roles without constraining them. Yes, these characters are stereotypical and yes it could be seen to not be a homage to a genre, but copying from it instead, however the sheer energy and writing of the piece leaves you with a silly old grin on your face.

DOWN WITH LOVE is a perfect antidote to the current glut of comic book adaptations filling our screens – ironically, Reed’s next directorial assignment is FANTASTIC FOUR – and although it may be argued that the film really is an example of style over substance, the performances of not only the main actors, but the supporting cast, help lift it far above most cynics pit of knives.

5 out of 6 stars