05/27/2003

It's a Mod, Mod, Mod World

Fresh and giggly from seeing "Down with Love," I read the Salon review of this cinematic confection after-the-fact. This was intentional, as I was fairly certain that Stephanie Zacharek would hold the film to a standard to which it hadn't aspired and while I wouldn't agree, I would feel sufficiently chipped off as to not enjoy myself as much as I in fact did.

"Down with Love" is a loving parody of the adorable and arch Rock Hudson-Doris Day films of the late fifties and early sixties. Filmed in a crisp retro technicolor with a bright lipstick palette, "Down with Love"'s intense visual appeal is matched with a fun, smart script and spot-on performances.

The first two-thirds of the movie proceed more or less as expected — following the pattern of the typical Hudson-Day romp — which leaves the audience amused at the all the blatant sexual innuendo and trying to remember if the sexual politics of the period really had quite this much edge. At this point we encounter some sharp U-turns that really do take the audience by surprise — and, apparently, either make or break the film in the critics' eyes.

I suspect it's a mistake to ask a film so devoted to artifice to develop realistic characters or plot a truly meaningful emotional arc. This is a film of surfaces and veneers, of multiple costume changes and changes-of-heart, of meeting your match and matching your mate. It's a designer's film, glorying in color, vista, form and tableau. It's the most perfect marzipan you ever saw.

Update, 05/29/03:

After I wrote the above, but before I got around to posting it, I came across this article, which analyzes "Down with Love" alongside "Far from Heaven", and suggests that:

In their oddball, covert way, both "Far From Heaven" and "Down With Love" make a more radical assault on the fantasy of the '50s than more overt attacks like "Pleasantville" do. They say to us: We're never going back there. It's not an option. So let's play dress-up because now that is all this will ever be -- a game, a performance, a show, a costume picture.

Laura Miller

May 27, 2003 in Film, practical theories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack