Down With Love

Rene Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde Pierce. Directed by Peyton Reed.
Running Time: 100 mins
Rated: PG

For those nostalgic for the Dors Day and Rock Hudson romantic comedies of yesteryear, here is the film for you.

In 1963 aspiring writer Barbara Novak (Zellweger) arrives in the big apple to sell her manuscript. She meets with disappointment until PR guru Vicky Hillen (Sarah Paulson) takes are under her wing. She makes her book, "Down With Love', a best seller. In it Novak tells women that while they may need and like men, they should not become dependent on them, and never fall in love. Award-winning journalist, and man-about-town, Catcher Block (McGregor) sets out to seduce Novak and expose to the world that she really is a romantic fraud.

Down With Love is a pastiche. Tightly crafted and carefully choreographed, it is an affectionate look back at the scores of films which had glamorous women being romantically rescued by dashing leading men.

Director Peyton Reed, whose name conjures up in images of Peyton Place, recreates the period and its films with meticulous detail. It's not just the art design, set dressing, stunning costumes and musical score that add to the atmosphere, but also the deliberate and highly stylised mannerisms borrowed from the film conventions of the Fifties and early Sixties. Editor Larry Bock's cutting between archive and contemporary shots adds greatly to the overall effect.

And while Down With Love might be homage, it is not just quaint and light and fun. It traces over the roots of modern-day feminism and the reasons why we need a movement for the sensitive new-age guy. In the most unexpected of turns it also ends up arguing for loving relationships that are committed, monogamous and married.

Down With Love is filled with quotations of sorts of films that more mature viewers will enjoy spotting, and shamelessly borrows motifs from James Bond and Austin Powers that will engage younger audiences as well.

The four leading actors combine to give quality performances in a clever and enjoyable journey to an era which casts light on the here and now.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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