It’s no surprise that we’re big fans of actress and designer Rebel Wilson. So when it was announced that she was teaming up with Hollywood heartthrob Liam Hemsworth to bring us a twist on the classic romantic comedy for Valentine’s Day, we knew it was a movie worth seeing. But with so many rom-com tropes forsaking body positivity, we crossed our fingers hoping that “Isn’t It Romantic” would be on the right side of cinematic history. And, luckily, it is. Spoilers ahead…
When we first meet Rebel Wilson’s on-screen persona, Natalie, it’s in a flashback to when she’s a little girl obsessed with romantic comedies. Flash forward 25 years and Natalie has left her home of Australia and moved to the Big Apple. We quickly learn that life isn’t going all that smoothly for Natalie. When she arrives at her office, where she works as an architect, her team walks all over her. Thankfully, assistant Whitney and colleague Josh (Adam Devine from “Pitch Perfect”) are her support system.
Though Whitney is always there to cheer Natalie up, she is infatuated with romantic comedies, just like young Natalie. Natalie explains that they set unrealistic expectations and rely too heavily on whether or not the lead has gotten the guy. She goes on to criticize the women-trying-on-clothes montages, to which Whitney responds, “Trying on clothes is fun!” Maybe for you, Natalie rebuffs. (Relatable.) Whitney suggests that Natalie just needs to open up to the possibility of love. On her way home, Natalie catches eyes with a handsome stranger on the train running next to hers. Once face to face with her supposed admirer, he tries to mug her and she ends up running head first into a pole.
When Natalie wakes up in the hospital, things are different. Her impossibly handsome doctor seems to be flirting with her, and her missing clothing is replaced with pieces from the lost and found that magically fit perfectly and look amazing. As she exits the hospital, she notices that the air smells nice for once and there are flowers everywhere. She crosses the street and is hit by a limo—Blake (Liam Hemsworth) is a dashing gentleman who’s immediately captivated by Natalie. After he writes his number digit by digit on flower petals—a ridiculously complicated way to communicate a phone number—she starts to realize that she might have woken up in a romantic comedy. And thus, the majority of the movie’s events are set into motion.
After a series of tried-and-true movie tropes—including too-good-to-be-true coincidences, unrealistically beautiful apartments, a romance with a Hemsworth brother, sassy sidekicks, introspective voiceovers, friends turned lovers, and an unplanned karaoke number with perfect choreography—Natalie finds that she’s had everything she’s needed all along. All of the things that romantic comedies tell us we need to be happy aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In the end, she discovers, the only person she has to make love her is her.
Though “Isn’t It Romantic” ultimately goes the way of the formula it’s hilariously satirizing, the message the movie sends is one of self-love. It could’ve followed in the footsteps of movies like “Shallow Hal” and “I Feel Pretty,” where hypnosis or a head injury were required for the non-thin romantic lead to be deemed lovable. And just looking at the trailer, you might suspect more of the same. While the inevitable “girl gets the guy” moment does soften the impact of the movie’s overall message, it’s secondary to the real point. True happiness doesn’t ride on finding your soulmate or being the woman who turns every head when she walks into a room. Instead, it’s about understanding your worth and choosing to love everything that you are—even if who you are doesn’t match up with the images of success and beauty that Hollywood bombards us with.
“Isn’t It Romantic” is an enjoyable take on the classic rom-com that leaves you with a smile on your face. Though it’s imperfect in its execution—the diversity that Natalie mentions romantic comedies always lack isn’t really challenged with the main cast—it steers clear of the traps so many movies in the genre fall into. Natalie, who wears a larger size than the average Hollywood actress, doesn’t always say the right thing, and is chock-full of “-isms” that are exclusively hers, is a refreshing take on the romantic lead. While she may not be the first plus-size rom-com star, we thank Rebel Wilson for being one of the amazing women pushing for size diversity in entertainment. And we can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
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