Down With Love expertly revives a genre we never see these days

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We live in a world of homage. The thing is…the scope of what cinema tends to pay homage to is pretty narrow. The last few years have completely plundered New Hollywood films of the late 1960s and 1970s, as well as a whole host of exploitation fare and Amblin-tinged adventure films of the 1980s. filmmakers turn are some of the greatest films ever made, so it only makes sense that they would want to reminisce about them. Overall, however, the narrow lens with which we view film history can feel repetitive. So many genres and aesthetics are there, waiting to be revived, ridiculed or simply acknowledged.

Director Peyton Reed presents “Down with Love” in the style of Hollywood sex comedies of the 1950s and early 1960s. It was a time when the Hays production code was still in effect, albeit in its final days, and filmmakers were trying to find every way to make sex movies that danced around the subject without directly addressing it. These are films like Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable with the comedy “How to marry a millionaire” or, more famously, the romantic comedies with Doris Day and Rock Hudon like “Lover Come Back” or “Pillow Talk”. These were high-budget, brightly colored images (usually shot in CinemaScope) that were naughty without being explicit and witty without being gross. Although they were never the most respected films, they were still affable and consistently made money at the box office.

“A bas l’amour” perfectly apes the tone and appearance of these films. From color blocking people’s apartments to split screens and the use of matte paints, every required detail is in place. Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor are completely connected in the over-the-top performance and presentation style, while having terrific chemistry together to boot. They’re flanked by the fabulous Sarah Paulson and David Hyde Pierce as best friends and confidants and rise to the heights of every best friend archetype you’ll find in any rom-com, expertly delivering gag after gag. While the movie initially has a bit of fun poking around the tropes of this genre of films in the opening minutes, the real magic comes from the fact that it sincerely settles in to being another entry in the genre. They talk about sex far more openly than in the movies they’re beholden to, but the more candid talk never feels incongruous with what’s on screen. On the contrary, it looks like a natural evolution.

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