Directed by Peyton Reed. USA. 2003.

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The past decade has been an eventful one for Ewan McGregor. From Scotland to Hollywood, via an interesting mix of indie hits and blockbusters; playing the treacherous Alex Law in Shallow Grave, through the dark and murky world of heroin addiction in Trainspotting, into the sometimes equally dark world of seventies glam rock as Curt Wild in Velvet Goldmine. Then via 1996’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, to filling Sir Alec Guinness’s shoes as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episodes I & II, stopping off in 19th century Paris to woo tragic courtesan atine (Nicole Kidman) and whip up a musical storm in Baz Luhrmanns luscious extravaganza Moulin Rouge! The list goes on. You’d think for one of the hardest working actors in the industry, McGregor would want to sit back and admire the fruits of his labour, and enjoy some of the perks that being one of the most success and credible actors around today would allow him. But with two films just released (the other the adaptation of Alexander Trocchi’s beat novel, Young Adam), and work about to start on the next two (Star Wars: Episode III and Jodie Fosters latest directorial outing, Flora Plum), it seems that there is just no stopping McGregor.

Moulin Rouge! gave McGregor his first real shot at playing a romantic lead, the chemistry between him and Kidman onscreen was electric (which lead to speculation that it was being replicated off screen, an allegation both parties strenuously denied), as their characters, Satine and Christian sang and danced their way through a tumultuous courtship and seduction. This time the odds are firmly stacked in McGregor’s favour. For a start, in Down with Love, Peyton Reed’s homage to all things 1960’s, McGregor’s  leading lady (Barbara Novak - played by Renee Zellweger) doesn’t die. She does however see men as the mortal enemy. You see former librarian and small town girl Barbara is something of an uber-feminist and is about to set the literary world alight with her best selling debut ‘Down with Love’. Proclaiming that love is little more than an unwelcome distraction, Barbara calls for women to ditch their relationships and pursue sex like men do - a la carte - exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. Chocolate is recommended as a desire suppressant and the book goes global and suddenly women the world over are singing to Barbara’s tune.

The deliciously named Catcher Block (McGregor) is the James Bond of the magazine world, top reporter at New York’s premier men’s magazine, KNOW. He’s suave, sexy, has all the moves and a steady stream of woman hanging off his every word, with a playboy bachelor pad that would make Hugh Hefner proud. After Barbara exposes his womanising ways on national television, Catcher finds his steady stream of female attention run dry, so he plots the ultimate revenge against her. Charm offensive on over drive, Catcher creates an alter ego for himself (that of shy astronaut Zip Martin) and sets about wooing Barbara with the intention of making her fall in love with him so he can in turn write an exposé on her for the magazine and prove her to be a fraud.

Flanked by their respective editors, Peter MacMannus (David Hyde Pierce) and Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson), Barbara and Catcher get themselves all tangled up in the game of love. Catcher lays his trap, Barbara realises that love and sex are not so easily separated and comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t practise what she preaches. Realising he doesn’t have the charm of his lothothario employee, bumbling Peter tries to seduce Vikki using some tried and tested Catcher techniques. Vikki having been ousted from her job by a disgruntled all male board, realises that at heart she isn’t a Down with Love girl either. The result is one of the films funniest scenes. A tribute to the Rock Hudson- Doris Day flicks of the 1950’s and 60’s and filmed in glorious Technicolor, Down with Love comes complete with all the kitsch fashions, hyper reality and innuendo that featured so heavily in classics like Pillow Talk and Don’t send me Flowers. McGregor and Zellweger sparkle as the two sparring partners in what is a delightfully upbeat and funny romantic comedy. The chemistry between them is believable- McGregor is his usual charismatic engaging self, and Zellweger makes a welcome return to the kind of roles that suit her the best- cutesy, if not slightly vulnerable romantic heroine.

All in all Down with Love is pure candyfloss - a sugary sweet romp through a pair of rose tinted glasses that provides a refreshingly welcome change of pace after a summer of big action blockbusters.

Emma Dixon
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