Laws of Attraction Review
A few years ago Hollywood pundits noticed a trend of movies featuring romances between stars who had something of an age gap. People like Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were co-starring with actresses seemingly only half their age, causing a lot of tut-tutting and mutterings about sexism and mid-life crises. One star who has seemed determined to avoid this fashion has been Pierce Brosnan who, outside the requisite demands of the Bonds, seems to have a preference for actresses closer in age to himself, a preference which more often than not audiences prefer too. In films like The Thomas Crown Affair, The Tailor of Panama and, now Laws of Attraction, he has shown that you don’t need a piece of young totty on your arm to have chemistry – in fact, the reverse is true as Peter Howitt's film ably illustrates. Between Brosnan and Julianne Moore there is much more of a natural, unforced spark than there was between him and, say, Halle Berry in Die Another Day and show that it's just the young 'uns that have all the fun. (On a side note, it was very tempting to use Denise Richards as the example there, but I can't actually remember the last time she displayed any sort of chemistry at all on screen, romantic or otherwise, so it wouldn't have been very fair). Suitably, the publicity for Laws stated that the makers were aiming for a more sophisticated, adult romantic comedy, something, it was felt, viewers were crying out for following a recent deluge of similar films that weren't so much interested in tugging at the heart strings as appealing to the lowest common denominator (Two Weeks' Notice, anyone?)
The ideal model for any kind of sophisticated take on intelligent romantic foreplay is still the old Hepburn/Tracy movies, so it is appropriate that this film takes its inspiration from one of their best, Adam’s Rib. Like that film, Laws of Attraction features a pair of lawyers, in this case Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore) and Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan), who end up contesting a high profile rock star divorce case while gradually falling under one another’s spell. She is a highly strung, hardworking professional for whom the law is her life, while he is an easy-going, naturally brilliant barrister who seems to effortlessly breeze through his cases without breaking a sweat. His insouciance aggravates her, while he sees a passionate woman hiding behind her austere manner. As usual, opposites attract and, despite (or perhaps, because of) their different approaches to both their personal and professional lives, they strike up a relationship.
And as film courtships go, it’s actually one of the easiest seen in many a year. Although Audrey is constantly fighting against her undeniable attraction to Rafferty, there’s never a sliver of doubt that she’ll end up with him (not that there ever is in these films) or even that she doesn't want to - she seems to put barriers in the way that just aren't there. Despite their differences from the beginning they seem like a natural fit, and the film doesn’t work particularly hard to persuade us otherwise - even the final crisis, when it comes, is nothing to get worked up over, featuring an unnecessary Richard Curtis-esque dash to the airport before all is resolved, rather unsurprisingly, very happily.
To compensate for this lack of tension, the film tries hard to emulate the wit and style that was a trademark of all those old Hepburn/Tracy movies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close. After a very promising opening fifteen minutes, it loses its way following the couple’s first date, with no memorable set pieces or, crucially, particularly romantic moments to raise its game. The one liners that Brosnan and Moore have to throw at each other are weak, the central case they are involved in uninteresting, and the sojourn to Ireland mired by a misunderstanding that could have been resolved within five minutes if the scriptwriters hadn’t wanted them in a particularly contrived situation. The banter between them is obvious and repetitive - we get endless shots of Moore’s character watching Rafferty on television (for a supposedly top-drawer lawyer she seems to spend a lot of time curled up on the sofa) making sneaky little remarks about her as well as several courtroom scenes in which Rafferty scores one over on her before afterwards apologising and saying he really likes her – “You’ve made me play dirtier than I’ve ever had to, that’s how good you are,” he tells her at one point. The lack of good lines is at odds with the way they are put across – it’s as though the characters know what kind of movie they are in and what is expected of them, but don’t have the wit to be able to spit out appropriate bon mots at each other. For two grown adults they behave at times incredibly childishly, and while it's endearing to a degree, it's just an example of the lack of proper tension between them - they know they're going to get together, we know they are too, so we have to fill eighty-odd minutes with petty squabbling rather than genuine conflict.
Fortunately, both leads are engaging enough that their performances go some way to compensate for the script’s faults. Brosnan has the charming rogue down pat, his easy air and raffish glint in his eye (it’s no coincidence his name is Rafferty) being sure to seduce not just Julianne Moore. Fittingly, his natural performance is reminiscent of the matinee idols of old – he doesn’t have to try hard, he just is. Moore as an uptight repressed lawyer is good value too – it’s her film to carry and she does it well, eliciting the mixture of laughs and sympathy necessary for the role to work without her seeming either too obstinate or foolish. She has a nice light touch for comedy, and is only let down by some of the script’s clangers she has to spout. Of the secondary characters, Michael Sheen’s arrogant rock star is cartoonish but fun to watch, although Parker Posey as his wife doesn't make much of an impression. Frances Fisher as Moore’s free-living mother, meanwhile, is not quite as good as she could have been – you feel another actress could have made more of the role than she does.
Director Peter Howitt, whose last film was Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English, certainly keeps the pace light and fast moving. Although never remarkable, he doesn’t make any mistakes, and never lingers any longer than necessary on a particular scene. There is good use made of the various locations in the picture, with some nice shots of a castle in Ireland and surrounding countryside, although admittedly there is a sense that that locale was thrown in just to give some visual variety to the film. Overall, though, while there’s nothing here to suggest Howitt is anything other than a journeyman director, at least he is a good one, and doesn’t let the film outstay its welcome. The film’s score by Ed Shearmur, sinks into the background and, besides the jolly opening sequence, is unmemorable.
In many ways Laws of Attraction is an absolute archetype of how Hollywood makes films nowadays. Its credits list no less than ten executive producers, eight normal producers and, according to the opening credits, five screenwriters. The result is what you would expect – a vaguely enjoyable, utterly bland, entirely safe product that is unremarkable in every way. That it is worth a look at all is entirely down to the charisma and chemistry of its two leads who make a diverting enough couple to go some way to make up for the lacklustre script. Made as a chick flick, it’s not a patch on the old romances it aspires to but at least it’s a step up from some of the dross we’ve had to endure recently, with the two leads making a far more likable (and realistic) pair than we've been treated to in other examples of the genre. One for a (very) undemanding girl’s night in.
The film comes on a single dual-layered disk. The menu consists of various short scenes from the film, its style reflecting the title sequence of the movie. The film is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic ratio, and is subtitled, unlike the extras.
Pretty nice, if a tiny bit soft in places. Not absolutely stellar quality, but acceptable none the less.
Good. The mix doesn’t have to do anything remarkable, but works well, with the Irish dance sequence particularly sounding nice, while dialogue and music is always crisp.
A trailer that implies the plot of the last twenty minutes actually makes up the whole of the film. The quality is noticeably not as good as on the main film, this is one of those promos that has a scene not in the final cut, as well as an altered line of dialogue.
Four. The first is an amusing three minute extension to the sequence in which the two are searching for the castle that, nevertheless, would have slowed the film right down if it had been kept in. The second is a two and half minute scene of the two racing to the castle and exchanging some more bland banter, although it has a nice punch line. The third is a pretty obvious, and silly, joke concerning questioning the staff of the castle that lasts a minute – easy to see why it was cut out, and the point it makes was underlined in the film anyway. The last is a three minute scene in which Audrey learns about Daniel’s past girlfriends – a pointless scene that goes nowhere.
An ending that, while weaker than the one in the film, has a better setting and slightly better dialogue – at least up until the final moments. Shame they couldn’t combine the two.
A bog standard Hollywood romantic comedy, elevated slightly by the two leads, but only worth bothering with if you want a simple, indulgent movie. The extras are similarly lacklustre, consisting basically of five deleted scenes and a trailer, none of which are subtitled (something guaranteed to annoy this reviewer), making this disk overall very lightweight and not especially attractive.
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