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The Laws of Attraction

If we are certain to see as many generic romantic comedies in the forthcoming years as we will see summer movies with comic-book superheroes, then at least we can ask for a good cast — and fortunately, while The Laws of Attraction (2004) does little more than fulfill its mission as a 90-minute foray into star-crossed love, its two stars make the experience pleasant enough. Julianne Moore stars as New York divorce attorney Audrey Woods, an experienced litigator who has seen so many divorce cases during her lucrative career that she's convinced the entire institution of matrimony is dead. In fact, she doesn't even bother to date, spending much of her free time watching The Weather Channel and nursing a junk-food habit — which doesn't sit well with her socially outgoing mother (Frances Fisher). But if the high-strung Audrey doesn't have time for distractions, she finds an entirely new challenge in Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan), a divorce attorney recently relocated to New York from Los Angeles. Audrey finds herself as opposing counsel against Daniel in a high-profile case, and like Audrey, he's never lost. However, unlike Audrey, Daniel doesn't mind playing hardball. A simple lawyer's tactic costs Audrey the case — a situation not helped by the fact that she and Daniel got drunk the night before and fell into bed. Bitter over the loss — and her loss of self-control — Audrey wants nothing more to do with her handsome adversary, until another high-profile case comes up: Fashion designer Serena (Parker Posey) is planning to sue her rock star husband Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen) for all he's worth, and Audrey actively courts the young woman to retain her — only to lose her proposed client when Daniel sweeps her away at the last moment. Within minutes, Audrey decides to become Thorne's attorney, and once again the two laywers find themselves in the same courtroom. But when the chief asset of the couple's estate turns out to be an Irish castle, Daniel and Audrey leave for Ireland, where they wind up at a local drinking festival, and once again in bed. Only this time they wake up with wedding rings — and realize they will have to appear married in New York if they want to keep their reputations intact. If The Laws of Attraction isn't terribly original, at least it has the good sense to adapt from the classics, primarily in this case from Adam's Rib (1949), in which Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn squared off as a married couple litigating opposite sides of a bitter divorce case. The film is a classic in its own right, and legal dramas have since been a reliable sub-staple of romances — there's something inherently appealing in combining sexual tension with courtroom tactics. Attraction takes a departure in its middle-third, becoming an out-and-out road movie (a la It Happened One Night) during its Irish sojourn as Audrey and Daniel make their way to the remote castle — one would expect such a shift would derail the film, but it actually works thanks to the script's consistent tone. Of course, the real schmaltz is saved for the final act, as the paper-thin marriage blossoms into genuine love (surprise!), and perhaps the only thing to fault is how much Julianne Moore's character plays into the frigid, Type A female stereotype who's capably seduced by a sophisticated man. But most rom-com fans won't complain, and it's a particular delight to see two veterans in Moore and Pierce Brosnan take their first stab at this sort of froth — romantic comedies live and die by the actors' authenticity, and both leads prove they can handle light humor with ease. New Line's DVD release of The Laws of Attraction features a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with a pan-and-scan option on a separate layer, and with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include six deleted/alternate scenes and two trailers. Keep-case.

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