This week I’m talking about one of my favorite movies–a film so unbelievably underrated I hardly know anyone who has seen or heard of it, despite the fact that it stars two Hollywood heavyweights. I’m talking about Down With Love, the 2003 film directed by Peyton Reed and starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. It’s honestly beyond me why this film grossed less than $40 million worldwide, especially since it’s one of the most-watched DVDs on my shelf. An homage to the sex comedies of the ’60s, Down With Love is a fantastic romp of a film, rife with all the style and elegance of the Rock Hudson-Doris Day romcoms it emulates.
Down With Love takes the zany sex comedy plots of its forefathers and turns them on their head–pushing them to their acme, as if to say both “Don’t you just love this stuff?” and “Isn’t this all ridiculously impossible?!” The fun of the film comes from its ability to take traditional sex-comedy tropes and dial them up to 11–everything from the split-screen telephone conversations, dialogue heavily laced with double entendre, and ridiculous, convoluted plots to get the girl. This is a lush movie chock full of hysterical zingers, gorgeous costumes, and a soundtrack that really amps up the ’60s feel. It’s MadMen meets Walk Don’t Run, and it’s bloody hysterical.
I truthfully don’t know why this film failed to strike a chord with American audiences (although maybe poor advertising, like the trailer above, had something to do with it!) Down With Love came 2 years after McGregor’s success with Moulin Rouge, and one year after Zellweger hit it big with her musical turn in Chicago, so audiences were definitely willing to pay to see the pair in starring roles. What’s more, the film is strengthened by the stellar performances of its supporting cast–including David Hyde Pierce at his neurotic, scene-stealing best, Sarah Paulson matching Zellweger in style and zip, and what would sadly be the final film appearance of beloved star Tony Randall. I mean, seriously, what’s a film gotta do to get your attention? The director even capitalized on the success of Chicago and Moulin Rouge by adding a Zellweger-McGregor music video for “Here’s to Love” (it plays during the credits, and is so damn funny I actually bought it on iTunes, if that means anything.)
Down With Love is a movie enriched by repeat viewing: it’s a witty little film that adores its source material and enjoys revving it up a notch. It also has a delicious feminist edge that reinvigorates the plot, so the film isn’t a mere copy of its predecessors. It’s endlessly quotable, and fantastically executed (not to mention it features gorgeous costumes and fantastic sets). If that doesn’t sell you, then be it known that McGregor is at his suave best in his Hudson-on-steroids performance, and he fakes a southern accent for half the movie. (Your welcome).
**Author’s Note: Thank you to everyone who has read, commented, and debated with me here at Man, I Love Films. This is my last editorial with the site, as I’ve accepted a position elsewhere. I am incredibly grateful to Kai and Dylan for the time they’ve given me here, to talk about the thing I love most with new friends and colleagues who love the movies as much as I do. Thank you for everything, and as the saying goes with Bill & Ted, “Be excellent to each other.” **