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Film / Down with Love

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A 2003 farce, directed by Peyton Reed and starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, that both lampoons and homages classic romantic comedies from the late 1950s and early '60s, particularly Pillow Talk and the other Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies of the era.

In 1962, aspiring author Barbara Novak (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 bestseller, 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 (McGregor), a reporter for Know magazine and a Casanova rivaling James Bond himself 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 (Sarah Paulson) and Catcher's neurotic boss Peter MacMannus (David Hyde Pierce), 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 to the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies of The '50s.
  • 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."
  • Answer Cut: At the end of Catcher's first scene in the film with Peter, Catcher asks "What is it about the work place that women just can't seem to handle?" Cut to an angry Barbara in the cab with Vikki: "Men!"
  • Advertisement:
  • Ass Shove: Referenced with this line: "Oh, Mr. Block, you can take your rain check, and as we say on the farm at harvest time, put it where the sun does not shine!"
  • Bad Boss: Theodore Banner gets a moment of this, when he tells the other editors that he wants Vikki fired from Banner House, or he'll fire them instead: "You're my creative team! Create a reason to get rid of her. Or I'll create a new creative team."
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Kiss: A good number of them between Catcher and Barbara. The one at the end of the dinner scene between the two in Peter's apartment. A few after Barbara's Infodump. And finally a few in the elevator at the end.
  • Bookends: Catcher is first seen descending out of his helicopter onto the roof of the Know offices. At the end of the film, he and Barbara fly away on the same helicopter to get married in Vegas.
  • Camp Gay: Maurice Johns, art director of Banner House, is portrayed this way in both of his scenes.
  • The Casanova: Catcher Block, so much.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: During Peter and Vikki's date at Catcher's place, Vikki asks if a picture next to the couch is of Peter's parents. Peter replies that no, they are Catcher's parents (because it's Catcher's apartment). When Vikki asks why Peter has a picture of Catcher's parents, Peter realises his mistake and tells her they should listen to some music.
  • Character Filibuster: Barbara's Infodump. It lasts three minutes and, save for one line, occurs in one take.
  • The Chessmaster: Barbara. It turns out that she arranged the entire thing just to get Catcher to fall in love with her, manipulating and anticipating everything exactly for that moment, and later lured him in to applying for a job as her secretary to ask for another chance, in order to test his sincerity and maintain her dignity, while making it look like she's reluctant the whole time, and having even dyed her hair in participation of symbolic renewal.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The key Catcher leaves out for his girlfriends. And the NASA security clearance badge.
    • Catcher's helicopter. It appears dropping him off at the Know offices when we first see him, then it returns at the end when Catcher and Barbara use it to go to Vegas to get married.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Gwendolyn first appears as the first of Catcher's girlfriends, which prevents him from meeting Barbara until the scene in the dry cleaner's. She appears later when she ruins Catcher's plan by entering his apartment using the key he leaves out for his girlfriends and using his name. She returns later in the same scene to thank Barbara for what she has done for womankind, causing Barbara to Become The Mask and decide she doesn't want to be with Catcher.
  • Creator Cameo: Composer Marc Shaiman appears during the end credits as the pianist during Catcher and Barbara's performance of "Here's to Love".
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Two examples near the end. The first is during a Thunder = Downpour moment. The second is later when Catcher has a "Eureka!" Moment and realises what he can do to try and get back with Barbara.
  • Driving a Desk: Done as an homage, although the characters are in the back of a driven car rather than driving it themselves. Peyton Reed originally wanted the sequence to use rear projection but had to use chroma key for practical purposes.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: While Catcher and Peter are at the Astronette bar, a depressed Peter is doing this because of how he thinks it's over between him and Vikki.
  • Empathic Environment: When Barbara leaves Catcher near the end and he sadly watches her cab drive away, a thunderstorm starts. It's still raining in the next scene with Catcher depressed over losing Barbara.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: "I'm just like every other man!"
    • Catcher has one (accompanied by a thunderclap) when he gets the idea to write a new expose about how falling in love with Barbara changed him and made him a better person.
  • Exact Words: In the Banner House boardroom, C.W. says that the human race would end if women stopped falling in love. Barbara refutes this by saying that she said that women should refrain from love, not sex. Immediately followed on the part of C.W. with an Open Mouth, Insert Foot moment.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Not ''The Future", but Now Magazine's offices are built to be much rounder than their competitor's.
  • Fainting: Due to misinterpreting part of a conversation she was eavesdropping on involving Catcher and Peter (they were talking about the length of their socks, she thought they were talking about... you know), Catcher's new secretary passes out after hearing Catcher say, "Don't forget, I've got two of them!"
  • Feng Schwing: Spoofed with Catcher's apartment, which, among other things, has a hideaway bar that takes up the entire wall. Hilarity ensues when Catcher suggests Peter borrow the apartment to seduce Vikki but Peter doesn't know how any of the controls work.
  • Food Pills: Referenced by Catcher when pretending to be an astronaut, claiming to be tired of eating things such as "pellet steak" and "potato tablets".
  • Foot Popping: Barbara is doing this as she and Catcher stand on the ladder of Catcher's helicopter at the end.
  • 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.
    • When Catcher hires McNulty, he says he's sure someone hurt Barbara in the past. He's right. He just didn't realise that that someone was actually him.
  • "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.
  • Heel Realization: Catcher has one when Barbara gives him her speech, as seen in the Reaction Shot afterwards, and the fact that he accepts he is the man who hurt Barbara in the past.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: When Catcher calls Barbara to arrange their dinner date at Peter's, Barbara is in the midst of sunbathing and Catcher is doing a workout. Also earlier, Catcher is eating a hot dog and Peter is talking about how he needs to pick up his dry cleaning. Catcher sees Barbara and decides to do it on Peter's behalf.
  • Heroic BSoD: Catcher has one when Barbara admits she doesn't want love, or him, becoming depressed and lonely. Peter has a milder one around the same time, as his relationship with Vikki now revolves around sex.
  • High-Class Gloves: A few of the fancy dresses have matching gloves, including the gold dresses the triplets wore.
  • 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 three straight minutes without once cutting away from Renée Zellweger.
    • Includes an absolutely priceless Reaction Shot from Ewan McGregor afterwards.
  • 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Catcher. He's a notorious womanizer ("ladies' man, man's man, man about town", actually) and initially views women as little more than objects or conquests (seeing Gwendolyn and Yvette alone over the course of one day), but he's also a brilliant journalist, a good friend to Peter and encourages Peter to pursue a relationship with Vikki. And by the end of the film, he's much more respectful to women than he was at the start.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Catcher when he starts Becoming the Mask. In pretending to be a man interested in Barbara, his interest becomes genuine and he starts actually falling in love with her.
  • 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.
  • Light Is Good: Catcher's white jacket that he wears throughout the film, such as during his introduction scene and when he meets Barbara at the dry cleaners.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Catcher's alias of "Zip Martin", via signs in a drycleaners.
  • Living Legend: Catcher Block, ladies' man, man's man, man about town is a 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.
  • Match Cut: In the Mahogany Room, Peter and Vikki are about to clink glasses (Peter has no glass so he opts for a shaker - no, an actual shaker), and it cuts to Barbara and Catcher in a theatre box clinking their own glasses.
  • Meaningful Echo: Catcher saying "One, two, three, four..." after leaving Barbara, expecting her to react to his walking away. The first time he does it after the dry cleaner's scene, and it works. The second, he does it at her offices at Now, expecting her to follow him. She doesn't. Instead, she appears in the elevator as he waits for it.
  • 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.
  • Murphy's Bed: Vikki gets flattened by a fold-out bed when Peter activates the one in Catcher's apartment while trying to open the hidden bar.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Vikki gets one in Catcher's apartment the first time when Peter causes the couch behind her to convert into a bed behind her, knocking her over, especially the look on her face before it crashes down on top of her.
    • Peter accidentally revealing the truth about Catcher's plan in front of Vikki.
    • Catcher has a minor one after the Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping moment below, but he recovers fairly fast. He then gets another one when Gwendolyn appears and ruins his plan by using his name.
  • Old Maid: Vicki's secretary Gladys is a parody of the old maid trope, presented as Deliberate Values Dissonance.
  • The Oner: See Overly Long Gag.
  • Only Known by Initials: Played for Laughs with the editors at Banner House. At the beginning, they introduce themselves to Barbara as E.G., C.B., C.W., J.B., J.R., and R.J.. When Barbara replies with "Okay!", E.G. says that O.K. couldn't make it, he and T.B. are having breakfast. The only one who's actually named is T.B., Theodore Banner, the owner of Banner House. Barbara and Vikki have a moment of this later when they refer to themselves as B.N. and V.H. after the book sales skyrocket, although of course their names were known to the other beforehand.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-story. Catcher's Southern accent as Zip Martin briefly slips into his own when he remarks Barbara has an eyelash, and she points it out. Followed by a minor Oh, Crap! on his part.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: C.W. in this exchange in the Banner House boardroom, which earns him funny looks from the other editors:
    Barbara: I said women should refrain from love, C.W., not sex.
    C.W. Isn't that the same thing?
  • Overly Long Gag: Barbara's speech at the end. It just keeps going on and on and on and on for three whole minutes with the camera fixed dead-center on Zellweger the whole time.
  • 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. Peter also does one a few scenes later to Catcher: "You're the best friend a guy with twenty diagnosed neuroses ever had."
  • Out-Gambitted: Barbara pulls this on Catcher. It works out well for both of them though.
  • Persona Non Grata: Barbara name-drops the trope when talking to Vikki, saying that she is persona non grata to all men, proving it by adding that she can't even get picked up by a taxi driver because of her book.
  • Pretty in Mink: Vikki wears a mink wrap for a date, and the stylish triplets wear identical white fox wraps.
  • Punny Name: Catcher Block. Also Johnny Trementus, the quarterback.
  • Record Needle Scratch: Fairly justified. Happens when Gwendolyn walks in on Barbara and Catcher, thus blowing Catcher's cover. Though we find out Barbara already knew who Catcher was.
  • Reflexive Response: Two.
    • In the scene where Peter is trying to woo Vikki at Catcher's apartment, she asks if a picture of Catcher's parents are Peter's. He immediately responds that they are Catcher's parents, which results in a Change the Uncomfortable Subject when he realises his mistake.
    • The second occurs a few scenes later, also in Catcher's apartment, when Barbara enters Catcher's apartment at the party and encounters Catcher with the beatnik girl in his bedroom. She says, "Catch," as she tosses her coat onto the bed, where they are, and he reflexively sits up and says, "Yes?" This almost causes him to get caught out when Barbara recognizes him, but he manages to cover himself.
  • Retraux: Everything is meant to evoke the look and style of a late '50s or 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 era would have done, rather than obtaining period-specific clothing from a costume warehouse.
  • Rule of Three: When attempting to meet Barbara at the start of the film, Catcher is waylaid by his girlfriends three times. The third time, the line between their phone conversation is shaped like a lightning bolt and Barbara is understandably angry that he isn't coming.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: Catcher's first scene is him, saying goodbye to three triplet brunettes who just can't bear to see him leave.
  • Say My Name: This happens three times, one after the other, in the same scene. As Barbara walks out on Catcher, she passes Vikki, who says Barbara's name as she enters the elevator. Peter says Vikki's name as he sees her, then Catcher says "Nancy!" as he chases after Barbara. Not knowing what Catcher is on about, Peter indignantly says: "Who are you calling Nancy?!"
    • Earlier, Gwendolyn does this when she pops by Catcher's place while he is there with Barbara, blowing his plan when she opens the door and says, "Catcher Block!"
    • Vikki says "Peter McMannus!" in surprise after he has a "Eureka!" Moment and kisses her.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Catcher Block seems to attract these like flies.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Barbara does this during the song that plays over the closing credits.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Literally. Vikki slaps Peter after giving him the Inspirational Insult mentioned above, and a second later (after his "Eureka!" Moment) he turns back to her and plants a Big Damn Kiss on her.
  • Split Screen: The montage of Catcher ducking out on meeting with Barbara to meet up with stewardesses is filmed this way. By the time he skips breakfast she's so annoyed the line dividing them is shaped like a lightning bolt. then there's the later sequence mentioned above under Does This Remind You of Anything?.
  • Spotting the Thread: Catcher uses a Southern accent when he's posing as Zip Martin. It slips when he tells Barbara she has an eyelash. Barbara picks up on this. Subverted, though, because Barbara knew who Catcher really was all along.
  • Straw Feminist: Parodied; the female characters spend the movie bouncing wildly between the early 1960s version of this trope and its 'Barbie doll housewife' extreme opposite.
  • Tempting Fate: When Barbara cites Catcher as the worst kind of man on TV, Catcher smugly remarks that "the four million women [he] goes out with don't listen to Barbara Novak". One phone call later from Gwendolyn, he's proven wrong, and it sends him into a moment of Tranquil Fury.
    • After Barbara's Infodump, she tells Catcher she wanted him to hear the truth from her before he hears it from his private eye. Cue McNulty's phone call, who summarizes and confirms the truth.
  • Thunder = Downpour: When Barbara leaves Catcher in the street after Becoming the Mask, this happens.
  • Title Drop: Obviously, with the title of Barbara's book.
  • Tranquil Fury: Catcher briefly slips into this when he hears on the phone that Gwendolyn has rejected his date thanks to Barbara, and he promptly hangs up on her.
    • Barbara when she overhears Gwendolyn and Yvette say that Catcher had been with each of them the day before at the time he was supposed to be meeting her, and realising he must be with Elke, and thus isn't coming to meet her (again). She insults him over the phone but barely raises her voice.
  • Twice Shy: Peter and Vikki. That is, until the Inspirational Insult given to Peter by Vikki near the end.
  • Weddings for Everyone: Barbara and Catcher fly away to Vegas to get married after they finally get together. The first post-credits scene shows Peter and Vikki proposing in unison over the phone and agreeing to get married as well.
  • Wham Line: "Because I'm not Barbara Novak. There is no Barbara Novak."
  • Who's on First?: A conversation about two magazines in the last scene of the movie has a lot of fun with the fact that the magazines are called "Know" and "Now" respectively.
  • 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.


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