[box cover]

Down With Love

Unlike the best-selling advice book at the heart of its plot, Down With Love (2003) isn't for everyone. Engineered from head to toe (or perhaps that should be from chic hat to stylish pump) to recreate the look and feel of a Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie from the mid-'60s, director Peyton Reed's faithful homage/affectionate send-up of those cotton-candy pictures isn't your modern, run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. By mixing the '60s aesthetic with a 21st-century attitude, Reed has created something much more fun — and interesting — than your average Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts vehicle. Renee Zellweger stars as Barbara Novak, a squeaky-clean girl from the sticks (Maine) who takes Manhattan by storm with her revolutionary self-help guide: Down With Love (the book) tells women how to take control in the workplace by having sex the way men do — à la carte, without any emotional entanglements. But not everyone's a believer; playboy magazine writer Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) wants to bring Barbara down a peg or three with a big exposé. Keeping the lead actors company are their respective best friends: Sarcastic, man-crazy editor Vikki (Sarah Paulson) and fussy, neurotic magazine owner Peter (David Hyde-Pierce, perfectly cast in the "Tony Randall" role). The plot thickens when Catcher comes up with a plan to make Barbara fall for him, but it turns out he's not the only one with a scheme or two up his carefully tailored sleeves. The whole thing, of course, is carefully and precisely crafted to match the stylized, sunshiny innocence of Day-Hudson films like Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back. From Barbara's pink suits and cardboard cut-out skyline "view" to Catch's swingin' bachelor pad and impeccable grooming, Down With Love's production design is spot-on. Even the jokes have a '60s quality — the stars exchange obvious innuendoes in the midst of their witty banter, and Beatniks become the butt of a few jokes during a party scene. Knowing all of this at the outset helps make Down With Love come across as it's intended to be — clever and creative — rather than loopy and strange. If you "get" Down With Love, chances are you'll like it; if you don't, try a few Doris Day classics (or a few martinis) and give it another go. Those who do like the film will appreciate Fox's well-put-together DVD. The strong anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) helps the colors and styles "pop" at home as well as they did on the big screen, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio shows off Mark Shaiman's fab score beautifully (other options include Spanish and French Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks and English and Spanish subtitles). The disc also offers almost as many extras as Zellweger has costume changes; look for a music promo spot, a "vintage" promo for the titular book, an HBO "making-of" special, six brief production featurettes covering everything from costumes to set design, a blooper reel, hair and wardrobe test footage, the "Guess My Game" TV bit from the movie, five quick deleted scenes (only one is more than 30 seconds long), Zellweger and McGregor's closing-credits song-and-dance number, and an energetic audio commentary by Reed. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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