Down with Love | The Shape of Things | Blue Car

Down with Love | The Shape of Things | Blue Car

Spring is in the air, when a moviegoer’s thoughts turn naturally to romance. If innocent fun is your idea of innocent fun, you’ll find plenty in Down with Love, Peyton Reed’s affectionate spoof of the Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedies. Set in the Manhattan of 1962, the movie stars Rene Zellweger as Barbara Novak, a Helen Gurley Brown-esque pop writer whose bestseller, Down with Love, promises to liberate women by teaching them “to live life the way a man does,” dispensing with love and enjoying sex “‡ la carte.” Enter men’s magazine journalist-and incorrigible playboy-Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), the self-anointed “ladies’ man, man’s man, and man about town,” who sets out to demolish Novak’s act. Affecting a cornpone twang and posing as, of all things, an astronaut, he plots to make her fall hopelessly in love with him, exposing her liberated Down with Love philosophy as a fraud.

Even more than Far from Heaven, last year’s revival of 1950s melodrama, Down with Love is a designer’s heaven, in which the real stars are the sets and costumes. Pillbox hats, white gloves, and an outlandish color palette of lime and orange-and, of course, pink-set a buoyant retro style that is part Jackie Kennedy, part mid-1960s Mod. There’s something deeply welcoming in Down with Love’s campy look and feel. It’s cinematic comfort food, right from the opening credits, with cartoon hearts bursting out of champagne bubbles, set to the...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper is Commonweal's contributing editor.