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Isn’t It Romantic is a satirical romantic comedy film that came out in the US a day before Valentines’. Is it the quintessential love flick that would give me all the feels of romance? I watched to find out. The film gave me a smile on my face the whole time. So, it definitely was a rom-com, but not the typical one. I felt it was like a rom-com inside a rom-com pretending to hate rom-coms but liking them anyway.

The film starts with our protagonist Natalie (Rebel Wilson) as the typical starry-eyed teenager who is in love with the perfect world of a Julia Roberts film. But here’s where I started to relate to it. Her mom quickly tells here while swigging beer, that fat girls like her cannot be in that world, because she’s no Julia Roberts. Don’t we all have those moms telling us to keep our feet inside our sheets?

Natalie turns out to be a cynical rom-com hater. She has this long monologue about what is wrong with films like these, which shows she knows a tad too much about them for someone who hates them. She is everything a rom-com heroine never is – overweight, living in a small unattractive apartment, struggling on the job and definitely not pursued by a hot hero like in the movies.

But things pace up when Natalie gets mugged in the subway. She fights the man trying to rob her and hits her head on the pole in the process, and imagines herself magically transported to a rom-com world while unconscious in the hospital. People are extra-sweet, everyone is attractive and New York smells like lavenders.

It’s hilarious to see the ever so cynical Natalie finding herself the protagonist of a rom-com she so despised. This nature of hers drives the film forward and aids to deconstruct the idea of a romantic comedy for us to reflect on.

The movie goes on to make a point about how objectifying and dehumanising some such films could be, which is especially true of some of the movies of the 80s and 90s. In the movie inside the movie, there are all the elements of a cliche romantic comedy, the protagonist who is clumsy but has the perfect hair, is loved at work, has a lovely apartment and the perfect job. And one by one, we see the same elements from Natalie’s mundane realistic world morph into cliche movie tropes.

HOW IS IT IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE, THAT A PERSON WHOM YOU JUST MET, WHOM YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT, COULD BE THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE?

We come across Blake (Liam Hemsworth), who was Natalie’s snobbish client in the real world who gives her no chances to present her work and make a point of her capabilities as an architect. He has suddenly transformed into an Australian millionaire who on the first glance, seems to have fallen in love with Natalie. This is one aspect of such films that I had difficulty dealing with growing up. How is it in any way possible, that a person who you just met, who you know nothing about, could be the love of your life?

The movie also implicitly tries to bring forth how these seemingly romance- inspiring movies have been giving us all the wrong ideas about how falling in love is, especially the love at first sight trope. The fact that so many teenagers developed those unrealistic standards out of their relationships has at least a little to do with rom-com movies. Natalie’s confusion over the same seems to be the ideal mirror of the sane viewer of such movies.

Also read: Love, Simon Review – A Queer And Wholesome Romantic Comedy

The movie inside the movie, here, also attempts to highlight the belittling of any female character except the protagonist. Whitney (Betty Gilpin), Natalie’s sweet coworker in the real world who encouraged her work, listened to her ranting about anything and everything, and offered her opinions on things like an educated woman does, is transformed into a mindless work rival whose sole purpose in life seems to be to take down the lead Natalie in every way possible without any particular reason.

The poster that Natalie looks at and scoffs outside her real office, is an airbrushed model on an advertisement comes across as a beautiful woman who claims to be a ‘yoga ambassador’. We see her for the first time choking on her food, Natalie’s friend Josh immediately goes to her help, and she seems to fall in love with him for this ordinary act of heroism. This scene reminds me of how movies teach us that basic human decency in a guy is enough to make him deserve your affections.

Critics have said that Priyanka Chopra who plays this character Isabella and is also the producer of the film, deserved a much meatier role fit for her talent. But I wonder if that’s the point that is conveyed through this character. We have seen so many beautiful actresses act in rom-coms who were all so immensely talented, but received no scope to display their flair as the role just demanded a pretty face. Her apparent vocation as a yoga ambassador also conveys how a woman this gorgeous can only have a career as glamorous as her, and if she was shown to be a scientist, for example, she would have to dress differently because no scientists are as dreamy looking.

IF SHE WAS SHOWN TO BE A SCIENTIST, FOR EXAMPLE, SHE WOULD HAVE TO DRESS DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE NO SCIENTISTS ARE AS DREAMY LOOKING.

Natalie’s neighbour, Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) is remodelled into the typical gay best friend of the main lead. The dialogue for this one is especially well-framed as they keep questioning the stereotypical appearance that the gay characters are given in movies and also the fact that they don’t seem to have any life of their own. These characters are very demeaningly and quite conveniently starred as mere sidekicks who dish out advice and are devoted to the main lead, all in their typical gay accent. The fact that at the end of the movie, we come to know that Donny is actually gay, but also a very ordinary looking gay guy who is also a drug peddler provides much more contrast as if enough wasn’t already said about it.

The little details in the imaginary world are present to show us the contrast that the movies create from our lives and remind us that it is often the imaginary world we end up idealising. Like in the movie world, Josh and Isabella throw a party at this big resort. Or the fact that they announce their wedding at the resort, for the very next day no least, or how normal people turn into singers for their karaoke night.

One parallel between the two worlds that remains the same is Natalie’s friend Josh who seems to tie the two worlds together, and yet keep them apart. His role mostly remains unchanged but serves the best bashing of cliches served to us in movies. He is the guy interested in the girl but is ‘friend-zoned’. Through him, the movie drives home the point that you may find love right next to you, only if you try to come out of the world and its limitations that you create yourself.

YOU CAN FIND LOVE ANYWHERE IF YOU LOVE YOURSELF FIRST.

The end of the movie gives the sweetest message. Natalie can only come out of the imaginary world when she realises that all she needs is to love herself first. She was enough. And as soon as she realises it, she finds the real world that seemed so awful to her, beautiful and inspiring. She becomes confident at work, appreciates where she is in life and realises that Josh is the one for her.

Also read:Margarita With A Straw: A Movie Unafraid To Portray Disability, Sexuality And Queerness

The movie thus ends on the note that romantic love is not always the best kind of love, at least not the ultimate goal for sure. You can find love anywhere if you love yourself first. Also, it is refreshing how the real world of Natalie also turned into a more non-fictitious version of a rom-com movie. After spending so much time telling us what is wrong with the older rom-coms, this one at the end tells us how is it done right. After a great deal of reality check Isn’t it Romantic also leaves us with a newfound liking for all the love around us.


Featured Image Source: Hindustan Times

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