The time is the 60’s. Renée Zellweger is Barbara Novak, freshly arrived in New York Citywith a barnstormer of a book about to be published. The book is Down With Love, and itturns into an instant bestseller, turning gender relations on their heads. Womanizing CatcherBlock (Ewan McGregor), hotshot writer at Know Magazine, is determined to bring downthe woman who has spoiled his skirt-chasing lifestyle. In disguise, he sets about seducing Novak.Neither ch…racter wants to fall in love. Naturally, they will. Down With Love’s modelis the 60’s Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedies, and it exults in its retro look, elaborately artificialsets and stylized performances. It races around like an eager-to-please puppy, but is so caughtup in its look that it neglects to make us feel anything in particular about its protagonists. Onecan only imagine what Baz Luhrmann or the Coens would have made of similar material.
The music plays a big part in creating the bright, nostalgic feel of the film, and it is admirablyserved in this mix. Cheerful and poppy, the music has a suitably airy, expansive sound. Its near-constant presence means that sound effects take very much a back seat, but when present, theeffects are well-served, and the left-right separation is quite good. The dialogue is never drownedout by the music, nor does it distort, and every word of the often very rapid banter comes throughclearly. The mix could be a bit more powerful, however. The film’s sound is noticeably lowerthan that of the menu.
Under review is the widescreen edition, and I can’t imagine anything more pointless than toview this film in any other form. For one thing, the opening, which recreates the Cinemascopepresentation screen, would be wasted in a fullscreen transfer. The 2.35:1 ratio is faithfullypreserved, as are the too-bright colours of Down With Love’s models. The contrasts areterrific, and the colours are uniformly solid and strong, coming through a maximum (cheerful)impact.
Director Peyton Reed’s commentary spends a lot of time explaining how he set aboutrecreating the sex comedies of the 60’s. Interesting and informative as he is, this emphasis doesshow that a bit too much energy went to this aspect of the film, to the detriment of others.Still, a good commentary. Two sequences that show up as small TV images in the film (the“Guess My Game” game show footage and the “Here’s to Love” song in the closing credits) canbe viewed on their own, in fullscreen. There are 5 deleted scenes, with optional commentary byReed. There are two montages, one of hair and wardrobe tests, and the other of bloopers. There’sa ton of promotional material in the form of 6 featurettes (which cover specific subjects, such ascasting Tony Randel), an HBO making-of program, and an ad for the soundtrack. There is also aphony period ad for Novak’s book. The menu’s main page, intro, and transition to the film areanimated and scored.
Something different yet old in the romantic comedy vein. Not unentertaining, but not a patchon such really strong romances as Amélie, Secretary or Punch-DrunkLove. The extras are a little too heavy in the promotional material.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- 6 Featurettes
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Blooper Reel
- HBO Special
- “Here’s To Love” Video
- “Down With Love” Testimonial
- “Guess My Game” Segment
- Hair and Wardrobe Tests
- Music Promo