Up with the Y chromosome
Down with Love
The level of enjoyment achieved while watching Down with Love relies heavily upon one’s tolerance for Doris Day-Rock Hudson type sex farces like Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back. If those titles instill hatred within your movie soul, it might be best to steer clear of this faithful recreation of movies that were inspired by the sexual revolution. If the colors, sounds, attitudes and vocal characteristics of those late-'50s, early-'60s films produced headaches and nausea, chances are this one will do the same.
Those who appreciate a good homage might find themselves having a blast as Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor square off in a battle of the sexes, featuring lots of pastels, cardboard moons, false identities and Tony Randall. Yes, even Felix Unger himself, second banana in all three Day-Hudson endeavors, drops by as a men’s magazine executive, giving the film an even greater sense of authenticity.
Moving to New York City in 1962, Barbara Novak (Zellweger) intends to conquer the world with her new book, Down with Love, a feminist manifesto declaring that all women should strive for equal rights, both in the bedroom and at the workplace. Novak calls for women to substitute chocolate for sex, to go out and get jobs and, above all, abstain from falling in love. According to her doctrine, men are helpless without the love of a woman.
Her book causes a national sensation and subsequent headaches for smarmy lady-killers like Catcher Block (McGregor), head writer for Now magazine and diehard playboy. Block hatches a plan to get Novak to fall in love with him in order to expose her as a fraud. The plan involves disguises, fake accents and switching pads with his square boss (David Hyde Pierce).
The performers all do a fine job with the rapid-fire dialogue and exaggerated facial expressions that are the calling cards of ‘60s sex farces. There’s never a moment where anyone in the film feels out of place. The successful recreation of the Day-Hudson dynamic is impressive on a technical level, but sometimes tedious and shrill as entertainment. Attempts to update the sexual innuendo result in Austin Powers-type sight gags involving split screens that feel a bit stale.
Still, there’s much to enjoy. Pierce, who previously got laughs in Wet Hot American Summer, a funny homage to summer camp films like Meatballs, is right at home in what amounts to this film’s Randall role. His is the most consistently funny character in the movie, desperately trying to win the love of Novak’s editor (Sarah Paulson) and carrying on a love-hate relationship with Block, replete with gay innuendo.
Zellweger and McGregor appear to have a good old time camping it up and dressing all pretty. McGregor, who has received some Internet support as a candidate to be the next James Bond, has the appearance and swagger of a young Sean Connery. Zellweger handles the ridiculousness of her role in stalwart manner, at one time delivering an identity-revealing monologue that comprises the film’s best moment. Stick around for the credits because both get a chance to sing and dance in a variety-show sequence that would make Dean Martin proud.
Down with Love is cutesy, intelligence-insulting, sometimes annoying stuff. In other words, it’s exactly what it sets out to be. Because it is done with a wink and peppered with occasional moments of satiric hilarity, the film works. Those who hated Doris and Rock will likely hate this loving tribute. Those with a soft spot for women in turbans, men smoking pipes and lots of lounge jazz will likely have a good time.