A Romantic Comedy
farce that lampoons romantic comedies around the 1950s and early 1960s, particularly the Rock Hudson and Doris Day films.
Aspiring author Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger
) arrives in New York to publish her book, Down With Love
, which encourages female empowerment through chocolate and casual sex. It becomes an international best seller, even edging out a biography of John F. Kennedy, and millions of women everywhere buy it and start learning from its precepts. This does not sit well with the majority of men in the world, least of all Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor
), a reporter for Know Magazine, and The Casanova
rivalling James Bond
in both suaveness and libido. After Novak calls him out for his behavior on national television, he hatches a scheme to get her to fall in love with him, thereby violating her own golden rule. She's already expressed her displeasure with him, so in order to get into her pants, he fabricates the persona of a country-boy astronaut who has just touched back down to earth, and as such has no idea of her book or her identity.
There is also a Beta Couple
of Barbara's chain-smoking best friend and publisher Vikki Hiller, and Catcher's neurotic boss Peter MacMannus, who get drawn into the hijinks of Catcher and Barbara.
(For the 2010 Taiwanese Series
of the same name, see Down with Love
This film shows examples of:
- Affectionate Parody / Pastiche / Homage
- All Men Are Perverts: The senior editors of Banner House lean forward eagerly as Barbara begins elaborating on the self-pleasuring technique outlined in her book...then sit back in disappointment when the chapter's title turns out to be "Up With Chocolate."
- All-Star Cast
- Answer Cut: At the end of Catcher's first scene in the film with Peter, Catcher asks "What is it about the work force that women just can't seem to handle?" Cut to an angry Barbara in the cab with Vikki: "Men!"
- Beatnik: Catcher comes back to his real apartment to find that Peter and Vicki are throwing a party filled with archetypical beret wearing beatniks. Then Barbara drops by and catches "Zip" in flagrante delicto with a beatnik chick.
- Becoming the Mask: Nancy becomes Barbara. And of course, Catcher pretending to be in love with Barbara leads to him falling in love with her for real.
- Beta Couple: Vikki and Peter.
- Big Applesauce: Along with some Television Geography shots of a stylized New York City.
- The Casanova: Catcher Block, so much.
- Chekhov's Gun: The key Catcher leaves out for his girlfriends. And the NASA security clearance badge.
- Creative Closing Credits: The ending credits include an extra scene with Renee & Ewan singing a duet and one with David Hyde Pierce and Sarah Paulson.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Via the magic of Split Screen, Barbara and "Zip"'s conversation looks like other activities, complete with cool-down cigarette.
- There's also Catcher and Peter's conversation about the length of their... socks.
- Empathic Environment: When Barbara leaves Catcher near the end and he watches her cab drive away, it begins to pour with rain. It's still raining in the next scene with Catcher depressed over losing Barbara.
- Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Not ''The Future", but Now Magazine's offices are built to be much more round than their competitor's.
- Feng Schwing: Spoofed with Catcher's apartment, which, among other things, has a hideaway bar that takes up the entire wall.
- Foreshadowing: In the hairdresser, Catcher states that Peter said - though he didn't - that Barbara was a brunette and did not sound like a blonde on the telephone. As we find out later in both senses, she was, and isn't.
- "Friends" Rent Control : Another parody. Barbara lives in a gorgeous, expansive apartment with a terrace. While this might be Justified if she had already been a best-seller, she moves in the day she arrives.
- Gambit Roulette: Barbara/Nancy's entire plot to snare Catcher, which essentially hinges on her uncanny prediction of the entirety of the film's events up until the point of her revelation.
- Godiva Hair: The Beatnik girl (topless but implied to be fully naked) in the party scene.
- Historical In-Joke: A deleted scene had Vikki pitching a number of books to her fellow editors, all of which are rejected out of hand. They're all famous feminist works that sold incredibly well and helped shape the movement. Except the last, which was the biography of Neil Armstrong, with a foreword by God.
- Hurricane of Puns: Catcher and Barbara's conversation near the end, about their two magazines, "Know" and "Now".
- I Know You Know I Know: How Nancy/Barbara knew her plan would work.
- Infodump: Parodied with Barbara's revelatory speech detailing her whole plan. It goes on for several minutes without once cutting away from Renée Zellweger.
- Inspirational Insult: Towards the end of the movie, Peter finally gets the courage to make a move on Vicki when she, upset with him over something else, slaps him and tells him that he's "just like every other man!" So he realizes that he needs to stop overthinking it, just "be a man", get out of his head and into her pants. So he does.
- Irony as She Is Cast: Vikki and Peter are played by two "out" actors. with many knowing in-jokes about Peter not being gay even though Vikki thinks he just might be.
- Although strictly speaking, neither of them were out publicly at the time of the movie's release, although in Hyde-Pierce's case it was something of an open secret.
- Ladykiller in Love
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At dinner, Vikki tells Peter how she dismissed the theory that life was a zany sex comedy in which he switched keys with the lead to ensnare her. Unsurprisingly, the theory that Peter was gay made more sense.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Catcher's alias of "Zip Martin", via signs in a drycleaners.
- Living Legend: Catcher Block, ladies' man, man's man, man about town is an in-universe Memetic Sex God.
- Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo of the film's era begins the movie, complete with credits to CinemaScope. The "A News Corporation Company" byline is ungainly added in.
- Barbara Novak deliberately seeks this out as part of her plan
- Mistaken for Gay: Peter, played by gay actor David Hyde Pierce.
- The Mistress: The mistress of Theodore Banner, head of the publishing house, stops listening to him thanks to the book.
- Offscreen Inertia: So... Are they going to stay on that rope ladder all the way to Vegas?
- Offscreen Teleportation: Barbara appearing in the elevator at the very end, when Catcher had just tried to apologize to her in her office.
- Old Maid: Vicki's secretary Gladys is a parody of the old maid trope, presented as Deliberate Values Dissonance.
- Opera Gloves: A few of the dresses, including the gold dresses the triplets wore.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: "Oh, Vikki! You're the best friend a girl from Maine who wrote a book and came to New York could ever have!" Meant as a genuine compliment.
- Out-Gambitted: Novak pulls this on Block. It works out well for both of them though.
- Pretty in Mink: Vikki wears a mink wrap for a date, and the triplets wear identical white fox wraps.
- Punny Name: Catcher Block
- Record Needle Scratch: Fairly justified.
- Retraux: Everything is meant to evoke the look and style of an early '60s romantic comedy, including the deliberately overlit sets, old-fashioned Split Screen effects, cheesy rear-projected Driving a Desk scenes, etc. They even went as far as making the main cast's wardrobe from scratch, like a movie production from the 60s would have done, rather than obtaining period-specific clothing from a costume warehouse.
- Same-Sex Triplets: Catcher's first scene is him, saying goodbye to three triplet brunettes who just can't bear to see him leave.
- Sexy Stewardess: Catcher Block seems to attract these like flies.
- Straw Feminist: Parodied; the female characters spend the movie bouncing wildly between the early 1960s version of this trope and it's 'Barbie doll housewife' extreme opposite.
- Title Drop: Obviously, with the title of Barbara's book.
- Twice Shy: Peter and Vikki. That is, until the Inspirational Insult given to Peter by Vikki near the end.
- You, Get Me Coffee: How Vikki's fellow editors demonstrate their contempt for her. Also subverted with the last editor.
Vikki: And you?
RJ: Oh, none for me.
Vikkie: Thanks, RJ.
RJ: I'll have a sanka.