Rebel Wilson Shines in Netflix’s Lacklustre ‘Isn’t It Romantic’

“These movies, they’re not for girls like us,” cautions a boxed wine-swilling mother to a chubby daughter who is glued to a television that’s playing arguably one of the greatest – and most problematic – romantic comedy of all time, Pretty Woman. 25 years later, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is an architect living in New York and a confirmed cynic convinced that “Sweet Home Alabama” and its ilk “is a masterpiece of shit!”

Shortly after this declaration, a concussion lands Natalie smack in the middle of the very universe that she despises. She’s the leading lady of her own rom-com where she wakes up with a full face of make-up, lives in an unrealistically large apartment in New York and has a meet-cute with a hunky client (Liam Hemsworth) who is smitten with her.

Netflix’s latest original Isn’t it Romantic aims to subvert the rom-com by poking fun at the many tropes the genre has inspired, from the offensively over-the-top Gay Best Friend and the impossibly good-looking romantic rival (Priyanka Chopra in this case) to the inevitable scene where someone breaks up a wedding and synchronised dancing to upbeat, saccharine numbers.

Priyanka Chopra plays a yoga instructor in Isn’t it Romantic.

That the writers, Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman are ardent fans of the romantic comedy is evident from the Easter eggs littered through the film, which pay homage to classics such as Pretty Woman and My Best Friend’s Wedding – the white dress and comically large hat that Natalie is given when she leaves the hospital after being treated for her concussion, for example, is similar to the one Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman when her character triumphantly returns to a snooty boutique that had earlier turned her away.

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However, beyond exaggerating rom-com tropes, Isn’t it Romantic doesn’t do much to subvert the genre. With the lack of the sharp wit and nuance of a successful parody, the pointed takedown of romantic comedy tropes becomes tiring, making a breezy 90 minutes drag on for much longer. The lightweight script relies on Rebel Wilson’s natural flair for both physical comedy and deadpan delivery to carry it forward.

Isn’t it Romantic pays homage to rom-coms such as Pretty Woman through several Easter eggs.

Wilson knows how to use her body, which definitely is an aberration in the rom-com universe, to comedic effect without coming across as the butt of the joke. The scenes where she stops a rogue halal cart with her body and where she runs in slow motion to break up her best friend Josh’s wedding are a delight to watch. Throwaway lines such as, “Ambassadors are for countries, not for stretching” and running gags like where rom-com universe Natalie is denied the pleasure of swearing with abandon because her world is PG-13 offer the occasional laugh but one wonders whether they’d have had the same effect had Wilson not been a vehicle for their humour.

Isn’t it Romantic attempts to subvert the tropes associated with romantic comedies.

It may take a circuitous, casually ‘woke’ path through self-love (vs finding someone to complete you) to get there, but Isn’t it Romantic ultimately offers the same message that the films it attempts to mock peddle – the perfect guy is right there waiting for you. We’d swipe left on this one.

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