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Reviewed November 25th, 2003 by Brian White


Perhaps there should be a new sub-genre of film created for “Love it or Hate it” films. For some reason, Down with Love seems to fall into this category. Upon walking up to the ticket booth, the lady says to my wife and me, “Are you really sure you want to see this?” Now that’s the type of ringing endorsement you want for any film.

Down With Love is a film made in the style of the “sex comedies” from the fifties and sixties. Rock Hudson, Tony Randall and Doris Day would often star in these romantic comedies. Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back are examples of this film type.

Set in 1962, Down With Love is the story of author Barbara Novak (Renee Zelwegger), who has written a book that is meant to liberate women. Her absolute opposite is Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), the playboy, man about town who writes for a men’s magazine. The movie is the long and winding road that tries to get our leads together by the end of the flick. There is much comedy along the way, and this is helped very well by David Hyde Pierce, as Block’s friend. It is said that Tony Randall (also in the film) often played parts like Hyde Pierce’s in the 60’s sex comedies.

So the filmmaking is both homage and a satire of this film period. Everything is, and appears to be, shot on a set or on the back lot of the studio. The New York presented on screen is the squeaky clean city seen in Hollywood movies, and not anything close to reality. When actors are in cars, it looks as though the filmmakers have used rear-projections for the action around the car.

Added to the look of the film, is the comedy itself. The comedy includes witty dialogue, and farcical situations. It is very similar to the sex comedies while not alienating the modern audience, except for the ticket lady.

The cast is really entertaining in this flick. Zelwegger is lovable as usual. Ewan McGregor fits into the Rock Hudson-type role very well. Again, Hyde Pierce is very entertaining. While the comedy style is over the top, the actors and director Peyton Reed manage to keep the tone appropriate and funny.

Apart from the great cast is the excellent filmmaking in general. Some really fine looking digital work has been created for this squeaky clean New York of the early sixties. Also, the sets are absolutely beautiful. Add the perfect costumes, and you have a feast for the eyes.

Down with Love arrives on a 2.35:1, anamorphic transfer. On his commentary track, Reed explains that he was trying to capture the widescreen feel of the Hudson/Day films, so he used 2.35:1 instead of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio usually seen on comedies. The transfer is absolutely lovely. The mentioned CGI cityscapes, the sets and the costumes all add up to a very colorful and bright movie. This transfer is very clean and detailed. A Full-screen transfer is sold separately.

For the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, certain editing moves are reflected in sounds throughout the speakers. This is pretty cool. Also, you get music and thunder in the surrounds. As a comedy, Down with Love does not require an overly active surround mix, but there is plenty going on in all of your speakers in this film. The surround mix is appropriate for the material.

As for extras, I suppose the pink keep case should be mentioned. That’s quite amusing. Also included is a feature-length commentary by Reed. This track is very interesting, because Reed discusses both the visual style of the film, Sex Comedies in general, and the actors and performances. A blooper reel is included, as well as documentaries about sets, costumes, etc. Footage appearing on televisions in the movie is also included.

So if you get the tongue-in-cheek delivery, and the homage/satire, then this flick is for you. Otherwise, you and the ticket lady can save your money for Indiana Jones next week.


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