Isn’t It Romantic movie review: Priyanka Chopra finally justifies her presence in Hollywood
Isn’t It Romantic
Director - Todd Strauss-Schulson
Cast - Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin
Rating - 3.5/5
Isn’t It Romantic is the best thing Priyanka Chopra has done in her brief stint in Hollywood, and she’s barely even in it. Such is the mediocrity of the projects that she has been a part of - and this includes the little seen A Kid Like Jake - that a glorified cameo here is better than her entire grating performance in Baywatch.
She’s in, like, two-and-a-half scenes, generously speaking. But in a stroke of good fortune, she spends the rest of the film on a billboard that is often in the background of more important scenes. So even when she’s not speaking and the spotlight, so to speak, is on the film’s lead (Rebel Wilson), her presence often looms large - like an airbrushed reminder of the sort of film that Isn’t It Romantic is satirising.
Watch the Isn’t It Romantic trailer here
It’s just the sort of movie she should have pursued when she first moved out west, instead of indulging far-fetched notions of becoming a leading TV star or some sort of exotic import - sort of like Sofia Vergara. It has that unmistakable cynicism of modern-day romantic comedies that we’ve all learnt to accept, and yet, it has no qualms about embracing some of the more outdated aspects of the genre.
It provides her with an excuse to crack that lopsided smile of hers, to speak in that culturally ambiguous accent that she enjoys putting on, and also be a part of a (rather well done) song-and-dance number.
But unlike some of the similar Bollywood (or even Hollywood) movies that it takes inspiration from, Isn’t It Romantic gives its female characters agency. And even though it takes Natalie - that’s Rebel Wilson’s character - the entire movie to come to some valuable realisations about herself, the film’s 88 minute run-time barely allows you to contemplate its flaws.
Like Natalie, we’ve been conditioned by classic romantic comedies (and movies in general) to have certain unattainable expectations from life. After watching The Dark Knight, I was convinced my life would be incomplete without at least 35 Batman action figures.
But unless you’re a complete idiot, you know better than to expect to live like a Julia Roberts or Drew Barrymore character. It’s a valuable lesson that Natalie’s mother teaches her when she’s a kid. But a knock on the head many years later sends her into just the sort of saccharine fantasia that she has come to despise as an adult, complete with a gay best friend to learn from, a mortal enemy to battle and a husky heartthrob to pursue.
It’s the second Netflix project in as many months that traps its female protagonist in a make-believe world against their will. But while Russian Doll had other ideas on its mind, Isn’t It Romantic is most concerned with the portrayal of women in films such as itself. It takes the Bechdel Test and passes it with flying colours, all the while maintaining its non-confrontational facade and a PG-13 morality.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson knows a thing or two about genre tropes - he previously skewered teen horror movies with his last film, Final Girls. His approach here is to shoot the ‘reality’ portions like a grimy workplace dramedy and the fantasy segments like a Karan Johar movie with a bigger budget. Handheld cameras are discarded for sweeping aerial shots and visuals that look like they’ve been slapped with an Instagram filter. Starbucks cups magically appear in characters’ hands and cross-city commutes that would normally have been interrupted by traffic jams every couple of minutes are erased in favour of gorgeous driving montages that last (precisely) 18 seconds.
Rebel Wilson is particularly charming in the lead role. She has just the right amount of vulnerability and sass, and her scruffy optimism fits perfectly with the tone the movie is going for. Not once - and I consider this a minor victory - is Natalie’s weight ever mentioned, or made fun of in any way.
Isn’t It Romantic isn’t the kind of film you’d want to introduce to your parents, but it’s a perfectly acceptable fling - the sort of movie that bumps into you on a busy street, offers a sheepish apology, asks you out for coffee and promptly disappears from your life the next day.