down with love (2003)


director: peyton reed

renee zellweger, ewan mcgregor, sarah paulson, david hyde pierce

If you can stand an avalanche of camp, issuing from a film more concerned with rendering shades of pink correctly than labouring under the obligations of plot or character development, you’ll love Down With Love.

Set in the same idealized Manhattan of bachelor pads and stewardesses that Steven Spielberg longingly portrayed in Catch Me If You Can, Peyton Reed’s film takes the premise one step further by launching the film a mile above reality, squarely in the world of romantic comedies like Pillow Talk, where manly Rock Hudson and coquettish career girl Doris Day warily circled each other, acting out the battle of the sexes like a duel of flowers.

Renee Zellweger is rather neatly cast in the Day role, as a “New England spinster” who writes a bestselling book proposing that women take their pleasure the same way as men - curtly, eagerly, and without expectations. Ewan McGregor plays a star magazine journalist, “ladies man, man’s man, man about town”, whose hyperactive love life dries up thanks to Zellweger’s book. Enraged, he sets about writing an expose predicated on getting her to fall in love with him, by posing as a naïve, cowboy astronaut.

McGregor plays his playboy cad like James Bond steeped in liqueur, and Zellweger acts through her usual mincing squint, while both of them move through the film motivated less by emotions than by a cycle of costume changes, most of which they affect onscreen. McGregor’s choice of socks, and Zellweger’s donning of foundation garments, says more about their characters than any line in the script.

Reed’s film strives for the distinction of making the Hunter/Day films seem like sober social documents, but if you’re able to take your knowing camp straight up - and in this age of Moulin Rouge and Chicago, it’s assumed that millions can - then you’ll love this film about a world that only existed in films, populated by people that never existed, anywhere, at any time.