Laws of Attraction (2004) * 1/2
Directed by Peter Howitt. Written by Aline Brosh McKenna & Robert Harling. Photography, Adrian Biddle. Editing, Tony Lawson. Production design, Charles J. H. Wood. Music, Edward Shearmur. Producers, David T. Friendly, Marc Turtletaub, Beau St. Clair, Julie Durk , David Bergstein. A New Line Cinema release. 89 min. PG-13. Cast: Pierce Brosnan (Daniel Rafferty), Julianne Moore (Audrey Woods), Parker Posey (Serena), Michael Sheen (Thorne Jamison), Frances Fisher (Sara Miller), Nora Dunn (Judge Abramovitz), et al.
A forced comedy, “Laws” is obviously an addition to the movie genre of antagonistic lovers, and transparently inspired by the great “Adam’s Rib” (1949) which starred Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. In fact, unless I am dreaming, in the television publicity of “Laws” there is a flash that states “Tracy, Hepburn.” Ho hum.
Audrey (Moore) and Daniel (Brosnan) are powerful divorce lawyers who have an impeccable record of winning all their cases. They meet in court– for the first time, I believe—as they argue against each other.
They are also opposites in character and lifestyles. She’s neat, organized, uptight, apparently without any male in her life –and she behaves sensibly in court. He is a messy, bohemian extrovert, presumably a ladykiller. In court and in other public meetings he acts flamboyantly--even resorts to stunts. But since the film deals with movies rather than real life, and since it is based on the false belief that opposites attract, it is a given that those two will eventually fall in love.
Before love comes sex. The pair have dinner together (improbable), get soused (improbable), wake up in the same bed (improbable). Next, since they seem to be the only top divorce lawyers in New York, they meet again professionally. (“Once more upon the breach, dear friends” wrote Shakespeare in “Henry V”) The clients are a nutsy designer fighting her punk-rocker husband. Neither of them is “simpatico.” That case sends our legal eagles to Ireland (lovely) where, after a festive and mass-drinking event, they wake up –again!—in bed, wearing wedding rings. This, however, is not the end of the affair… While the now sober couple of newlyweds would like to divorce, for now, and for business reasons, they cannot split. Having painted themselves into a corner, how do they come out it? Don’t ask—I won’t tell.
But I can state that the solution is, I bet, out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (1941, with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery). That was a delightful but overlooked comedy, unusual for a Hitch flick, and with a neat problem-solving twist that reappears in “Laws of Attraction.”
Alas, in the current movie nearly everything is phony, unconvincing, predictable, and artificial down to its details. At random I’ll pick one of them: Brosnan reading the Memoirs of Andre Gide. Boring, boring.
The major single exception lies in the character played by Frances Fisher. She is Moore’s husbandless mother –a likeable, witty, handsome airhead lady who clings to her youth through fashions, cosmetic surgeries, socializing, and so on. She has good lines. There’s more humor in her appearances than in any by the protagonists. The catch here is that in real life Ms. Fisher is only eight years older than Ms. Moore. While some scenes cannot hide this, in others she is jarringly aged.
Otherwise, the picture, in the genre of “romantic comedy,” is neither funny, comic, romantic or sexy. The great majority of professional reviewers have given low ratings to this movie. But there will be several casual moviegoers –including very smart ones—who will be more lenient, enjoy the picture, and give it a better grade.