“Isn’t it Romantic” features cynical, fiercely independent Natalie (Rebel Wilson), as she is transported from her harsh New York City reality into a rose-colored alternate world as she wakes up in her worst nightmare — a PG-13 romantic comedy. In an industry that churns out remakes and sequels, “Isn’t it Romantic” is a creative, meta take on the romantic comedy (rom-com). With a star-studded cast that includes Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra and Adam DeVine, the film is wholesome, intentionally cheesy and sweet.
Our heroine starts her morning in a cramped, dirty apartment with a dog that won’t listen to her commands. Like her morning, her life is dark and dingy, and she is mostly ignored. The atmospheric lighting and the detailed sets work to emphasize this notion, opting for yellow, unflattering hues for the “reality” scenes and cute, filtered lighting for the “rom-com reality.” Natalie, completely disillusioned since youth with the idea of love that romantic comedies portray, rants to her assistant about the predictable tropes, foreshadowing what she will inevitably live through after she’s knocked out by a subway pillar. Although this method of storytelling can be perceived as a lazy way to give the audience the information, Wilson’s comical performance and the jaunty camera shots make it enjoyable. Many of Wilson’s deadpanned one-liners save these sorts of situations from becoming tiresome (a feeling a film filled with cliches is bound to fall into) and are instead amusing.
The detail in the sets and the lighting is remarkable; the streets of New York are swapped for spotless sidewalks lined with bright pastel-colored flowers and cupcake shops. This attention to detail is commendable, but paying tribute to the rom-com in this way was excessive at times. Despite adding to the comical, sugary sweet atmosphere, the overused classic love songs and dance sequences were sometimes too cheesy to be palatable. As Natalie realizes that she is now the embodiment of the tropes she despises (cute clothes, huge apartment, fancy job, dreamy boyfriend) she tries her hardest to resist the montages, gay sidekick and predictable storyline that rom-coms frequent. The film definitely puts its own twist on these formulaic aspects — the gay sidekick, for example, is a critique of how rom-coms make these characters one-dimensional and stereotypical. Hemsworth also does a surprisingly good job at playing the dreamy boyfriend, molding the role of the eligible bachelor into a playful, bizarre parody.
Although the comical portrayal of rom-com tropes and the predictably sweet ending make for a fun watch, the real heart of the film lies in its modern twist. Wilson, as pointed out at the beginning of the film, is an unconventional and rarely used pick for the protagonist. Her character struggles with the belief that she is not good enough. As her emotional final monologue proves, this type of representation could work to dismantle the toxic expectations and images that rom-com’s inadvertently advertise. Natalie realizes that despite what romantic comedies and her own insecurities made her believe, she is the sort of woman who deserves — and can — have it all. This modern take on the predictable plot is a refreshing reimagining of the tired and often overdone romantic comedy.
Verdict: “Isn’t it Romantic” is the perfect release for Valentine’s weekend. Details like the set, lighting and throwback soundtrack add all the more fun to this lighthearted movie. With good comedic performances from the entire cast, the film embodies the very thing it is parodying (the unreal romantic comedy world) with a 2019 twist.