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LAWS OF ATTRACTION (PG-13) (2004)

New Line Cinema

Official Site

Director: Peter Howitt

Producers: David T. Friendly, Marc Turtletaub, Beau St. Clair, Julie Durk, David Bergstein

Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna, Robert Harling

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey, Michael Sheen, Frances Fisher, Nora Dunn

Rating:

Y’know how when your trash can is really full, but you’re too lazy or stubborn to admit the fact, so you stick your foot into the can and compact all the trash with your weight, hoping that you’ll make just enough room to keep it from overflowing for one more day? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. Laws Of Attraction fits in more clichés per square inch than a made-for-TV movie, which isn’t surprising considering the production crew. Director Peter Howitt is a veteran of the TV movie business, producer David T. Friendly previously worked on the classic Big Momma’s House (which should have gone directly to TV), and writer Aline Brosh McKenna scripted the all-too-brief sitcom “All American Girl.” The only surprise in this particular pack of cards is writer Robert Harling, whose previous accomplishments include Steel Magnolias and Soapdish. I’m going to give Harling the benefit of the doubt and assume he just did the spellchecking.

Laws Of Attraction is a romantic comedy of rather underwhelming proportions. Trite and predictable, it features two divorce lawyers who at first hate each other but then realize that their fierce rivalry is really nothing more than a playground flirtation. Julianne Moore plays Audrey Woods, a by-the-book businesswoman with high aspirations and a killer scarf collection. Ruffling her perfectly groomed feathers is rival lawyer Daniel Rafferty (Brosnan), whose disheveled appearance and unconventional manner catch her completely off guard. Although Brosnan’s change of character is rather amusing at first (the former Bond sports gray hairs and a Dennis-the-Menace demeanor), it nevertheless falls flat. It’s just too impossible to imagine Bond picking a snowball crumb off Moore’s lip and then eating it like a grooming monkey. Frances Fisher also rings hollow as Woods’ mother Sarah, an age-defying socialite who takes the phrase “young at heart” to a ridiculous extreme. “Absolutely Fabulous” she is not.

Case after case, Woods and Rafferty battle each other in what comes to be an infamous New York rivalry. The climax of this competition occurs when Rafferty accidentally “steals” Woods’ high-profile client (Posey) Serena, spurring Woods to then represent the client’s lascivious husband, Thorne (Sheen). In the process of negotiations, both Serena and Thorne make claims on a castle in Ireland, sending Rafferty and Woods racing to grill the castle staff over ownership issues. A slight snag occurs, though, when the two get sloshed at a local festival and tie the knot. Such silly lawyers! So now Rafferty and Woods must pretend to be happily (and deliberately) married for the duration of the case for fear of the law community’s ridicule. I wonder if, during the trial, they’ll actually fall in love for real? Naaah, things like that never happen in movies.

Although the film focuses on Moore and Brosnan, Posey and Sheen were in my opinion the real stars. As the childish fashion designer and spastic rock star, their roles are meant to be exaggerated caricatures (while in Moore and Brosnan the phenomenon is merely the result of poor writing). A veteran of Christopher Guest mockumentaries, Posey brings her charmingly dippy style to the screen as the beleaguered but less-than-stoic celebrity wife. Comedy is a change for Sheen, whose previous roles include The Four Feathers and Underworld. Nevertheless, he scores big time as a rather lusty fellow with poor morals and a worse accent. Sheen and Posey are the only elements that kept this Titanic afloat—and me in my chair.

This movie just lacks any sincerity. Why is Rafferty so unflaggingly infatuated with Woods, for example? Sure, the woman has great hair, but her overall personality is so cold and lackluster that even Larry Flynt wouldn’t give her a second look. The chemistry between the two characters seems rather forced, and the development of the relationship is so predictable that it could be a template for future romantic comedies. That’s the problem with the whole movie, actually; instead of presenting a story, Laws Of Attraction cobbles together stock characters and plot devices according to a “Romantic Comedies for Dummies” manual. It’s not a story at all, actually, but a film-constructed Frankenstein’s monster.

—Emily Younger

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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