VOD film review: Down with Love
Ivan Radford | On 02, Apr 2021
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Renée Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce
Where to watch Down with Love online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / CHILI
Ewan McGregor is one of the most underrated screen talents of his generation – not because he isn’t well-known, but because he is, and yet he continues to make some of the most unusual project choices going. Who else could play Renton in Trainspotting, sing his heart out in Moulin Rouge!, scowl villainously through Birds of Prey, tap into childhood trauma in Doctor Sleep, and do an uncanny Alec Guinness impression as Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi? Perhaps the most surprising of his roles, though, is Down with Love, a send-up of 1960s screwball comedies made in 2003.
If that sounds like an unlikely affair, prepare to fall hard for what turns out to be a deliciously winning spoof. The film follows Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger), an author who strikes success when she publishes her titular book, urging women to forgo love, enjoy sex without strings and use chocolate to get the kind of boost they’d normally get from a man’s affections. Ewan McGregor plays Catcher Block, a womanising journalist for the magazine Know, who decides to make her fall in love with him and write an expose that takes her down and restores traditional genders roles once more.
It’s precisely the kind of will-they-won’t-they odd couple that powers all the best romantic capers, and director Peyton Reed (who would go on to helm Ant-Man) stuffs every frame available with nods to Doris Day and Rock Hudson classics. The tone is note perfect, from the period costumes and the brightly coloured sets to the use of split-screens and unconvincing rear projection. Throughout, Eve Ahlert’s script rat-a-tats with sparky, witty dialogue, particularly when David Hyde Pierce’s scene-stealing editor gets involved.
All this would be worthless without the right leading couple and Zellwegger is a joy as the feminist who doesn’t let this modern throwback conform to outdated ideas – a speech near the end rolls off her tongue with rambling, goofy sincerity, even as the situation escalates into over-the-top rug-pulls and helicopter hijinks. McGregor, meanwhile, is glorious as the chauvinist who finds his heartstrings pulled, sending himself up with a knowingly cheesy grin – suave and ridiculous at the same time.
The result is a joyous mockery and celebration of 1960s rom-coms, a tribute to the magic of the movies as much the enchantment of love, and a showcase for two actors proving just how versatile they are.
Down with Love is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.