From the opening credits of Isn’t It Romantic we are transported into a world of a film genre that this film insists is awful. The romantic comedy. There’s something about them that has kept women coming back for more decade after decade. Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl on a date. Boy and girl date for a while. Something horrible happens. A chase has to occur and by the end of the film they are back together. This is a formula most people have had etched into our memories from the moment we were old enough to watch our first rom-com really. Many additional elements exist within the film, but ultimately in the most of these films the pair end up together.
Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is no different. A younger version of herself is watching Pretty Woman when the film opens. Her mother insists at such a young age that they will never have that life. These are just movies. They are ideals that do not belong to women like her and her mother. They were not meant to have it all. Her societal woes inevitably put a damper on Natalie’s psyche because once we meet her again twenty-five years later we realize that Natalie has become quite the cynic. She does not believe in love. She does not get the respect at her job that she deserves. She’s continuously overlooked by not only her co-workers but numerous men as well who just consider her the coffee girl Natalie knows something must change.
Thankfully that change comes into play when a random stranger attempts to mug Natalie and upon escaping her mugger she’s rendered unconscious where she wakes up to a whole new world. Her life is a romantic comedy. Her life is the thing she has grown up to dread the most, but desired deep down as a young girl. As she goes through a journey to get back to reality, Natalie encounters and points out the numerous flaws and cliches in romantic comedies. No one truly cares about the secondary characters. They merely exist to guide the story along and they are ninety percent of the time super stereotypical like Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) and Whitney (Betty Gilpin). After all, the only thing I truly know about Whitney is that she loves and believes in rom-coms. Donny we somewhat learn more about than normal and it makes me love the film more although they leave him in some painfully stereotypical moments.
The reason Isn’t It Romantic is more than a rom-com though is because it takes the societal notion that you have to fit into a box and flips it on its head. For years, plus-size women have endured hearing that we are not pretty enough. We have good hearts and a pretty face but that’s it. No man will want that. Our confidences are shattered from the moment we pick up a magazine really. The sad fact of the matter is society tends to beat into our brains that we are not good enough and our brains do not matter at the end of the day. Sometimes this occurs within the home. Sometimes this occurs from various years of hurtful words at school. Honestly though, some of this has occurred because of lack of representation as well.
Part of what I love about this film is how many references are made throughout the film to other romantic comedies. The cliches are strong, but the characters are stronger for them. Seeing Natalie walk around in various iconic outfits from Pretty Woman made my heart happy. Plus, Blake (Liam Hemsworth) is so many iconic leading men from these movies I lost count at one point. However I could not help but think of him as a bit smarmy because he painfully reminded me of Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones’s Diary I found myself unwilling to fully trust him. No one can deny his attractive nature though. Josh (Adam Devine) of course falls into the trap that most men do in these movies at one point or another. He is friend zoned and Natalie cannot even see what she has done because she lacks confidence in herself.
Confidence is hard to come by after years of allowing oneself to become a doormat and others to walk all over them. Hard work becomes necessary to reverse those effects, but they are possible. Natalie is one of the main leading ladies of these comedies I can truly relate to. I am the leading lady of my own life who will turn around like Duckie at the end of Pretty in Pink as he debate if the girl at the dance is asking him to dance with her. In many ways Natalie is the same and she teaches us all a very important lesson by the end of the film. Brilliantly acted, brilliantly written, some might even say the film is quite beguiling. Although something tells me everyone who purchased a ticket to see Isn’t It Romantic were not fooled into thinking they were watching anything than a romantic comedy. Ultimately audiences are okay with that.