20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 97 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Surprisingly, after Mike Myers started a cinematic rekindling of that whole ‘60s free-spirited bag with the Austin Powers series, there wasn’t a massive flotilla of copycat flicks floating in its wake. Finally, however, somebody else has dared to venture into similar territory, taking as inspiration the Doris Day/Rock Hudson trilogy of flicks Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers, which started flowing just before that swingin’ decade kicked in, but rewriting it all with a sharpened, decidedly Noughties sledgehammer.
Hitting the hip, cool, far-out, groovy and boss places...
It’s 1962, and Barbara Novak (Renee Zellwigglywogglywooglyagogo) is a true proto-'60s chick. Having penned a book entitled Down With Love, a tome which though all cutesy and pink in cover espouses the virtues of chicks living life like guys – all free-spirited, free-wheeling and free-love - she’s just hit New York to do the promo thang, and has an interview lined up with gallivanting swinger about town and star writer for men’s magazine Know, Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor, putting in an extended audition to play James Bond it would seem, Conneryesque inflections and all); the only problem is he keeps cancelling in favour of a seemingly endless stream of women in uniform. Cue an alternate promotional campaign and the book’s a huge worldwide hit so, intrigued/concerned/petrified by all that this feminist stuff may mean to his way of life, Catcher sets off on the Novak warpath in an elaborate attempt at proving our Barbie’s just a squooshy old traditional love and marriage kinda gal after all – so he can write an expose about it, of course. Naturally, however, it doesn’t turn out at all like he plans.
A veritable visual treat with is some of the grooviest production design we’ve seen around these parts in quite some time and a most welcome didn’t-see-it-coming twisty bit, Down With Love is something refreshingly different that swims about on top of the pool of romantic comedy slush that’s oozed from Hollywood in more recent years. The two leads bounce off each other remarkably well, both with enough obvious relish for their roles to have regular fireworks popping off all over the place. The supporting cast are more than up to the task of coming to the party, most notably a gleeful Sarah Paulson and Niles Crane – erm, David Hyde Pierce – in a role which must have been a stretch, as an incredibly neurotic and rather camp foil for Catcher’s ever-so-confident ladies man…
Now where would we be if not for yellow lines?
The grab for ‘60s-styled authenticity starts at the very beginning, with the classic ‘A Cinemascope Picture’ graphic stepping on the heels of the familiar searchlights logo; this, however, doesn’t mean we’re in for a ‘60s styled transfer. Considering this rental version is shoehorned onto a single-layered disc, the anamorphically enhanced, 2.35:1 image we get is actually quite natty. The print itself is virtually spotless, and it all comes to screen with hyper-poppy ‘60s colouring, good blacks, a decently detailed print that’s not too sharp, not too dull, but just right and only rare examples of things that are a drag such as some shimmering on one of Catcher’s herringbone jackets.
The sound, too, is hardly an authentic ‘60s affair, something for which we’re grateful. Natty modern Dolby Digital 5.1 technology has been used to give us a nice, spaced-out mix, albeit one which doesn’t make an awful lot of use of the rear channels. So too the subwoofwoof gets little to gnaw on, but the odd boom and bang here and there let’s us know it’s still around. Synch is fine, and the snip-snop-snappy traditionally styled score from Marc Shaiman comes up a veritable treat.
Being one of Fox’s dreadfully generic, rental-only things, it seems we’re lucky enough to get the crap menu we do, let alone being so silly as to expect anything in the way of bonus features. We’re pretty sure the eventual retail release will rectify this situation.
Sure, it lacks some of the finesse of those flicks which inspired it, coming over about as subtle as being hit in the face by a Jumbo Jet (thoughts of the oh-so-‘60s split screen scenes come to mind), however Down With Love has a joyous spirit at its heart which makes it succeed where it could just as easily have fallen flat on its face - as long as you actually click with the vibe of it all daddy-o (or indeed mummy-o), of course.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "