‘Down with Love’ (2003) Review

Down With Love is about a woman trying to make it in a man’s world. Or is she? Barbara Novak has just written a book called Down With Love, a self-help book for women, freeing them from love, encouraging sex without love, and the idea of replacing a need for men with other things.

The book becomes a worldwide sensation, irritating men around the world, including magazine writer and ladies’ man, Catcher Block. Catcher becomes determined to beat Barbara at her own game and prove she wants what every woman wants – love and marriage.

Down with Love is a shrewd comedy that gleefully imitates the no-sex comedy genre made famous by Rock Hudson and Doris Day in the early 1960s. I saw this movie many, many years ago so my memories of it were very vague before I re-watched it. It’s so colorful and peppy, yet it has a strangely chaotic energy about it.

Ewan McGregor is so smoothly charming as Catcher. I loved his scenes with David Hyde Pierce, who plays Catcher’s boss and sidekick, Peter. David Hyde Pierce was/is one of my favorite parts of Frasier so I was delighted to see him in this movie. His comedic timing is unparalleled and he plays so well off of McGregor.

Renee Zellweger does a fine job as the headstrong, romantic-at-heart Barbara. There were moments when I thought maybe she was miscast, but then I realized that my lukewarm response to her in this film had more to do with the equally lukewarm chemistry between her and McGregor. I just wasn’t feeling it. I preferred the scenes with their best friends more than when they were with each other. Sarah Paulson plays Barbara’s friend and editor, Vikki, who also has a romantic subplot with Peter. She’s wonderful, of course, and I love seeing how her career has evolved since 2003.

Even so, I still thought Down With Love was fun and entertaining. It’s just a whirlwind of color and vintage frocks, even if it’s a bit too self-aware at times. I would say, even if you watch this movie and you’re not feeling it, it’s really worth it to watch it to the end where Barbara spouts a two-minute long monologue breaking down the “plot”. It’s hilarious and impressive, and Catcher’s reaction is priceless.

Down With Love works better as a pure comedy than it does as a romantic one, which I blame on the “meh” chemistry between Zellweger and McGregor. I enjoyed it and if I come across it on television again, I’d probably stop to watch it.

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."