Laws of Attraction

Movie Information

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Peter Howitt
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Julianne Moore, Michael Sheen, Parker Posey, Frances Fisher, Nora Dunn
Rated: PG-13

I didn’t hate Laws of Attraction; I did, however, like it better in its 36 or so earlier incarnations.

This film is essentially a harmless, bland confection that just manages to squeak by on the basis of a few clever lines and the appeal of its stars. At least, I think it’s harmless: I have questions about a movie that plays like an advertisement for the liquor industry. Nearly everything that happens in Attraction stems from the main characters getting drunk. They fall into the sack the first time because they’re trashed. They end up married — supposedly, anyway — because they were blotto.

And when they’re not drunk, they seem to spend a lot of time talking about drinking. When Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) is asked by his new mother-in-law (Frances Fisher, House of Sand and Fog) if he’d like a cocktail, he specifies that he’d like a “large one.” The message seems to be that drunkenness is romantic. And while that may have played all right in 1935, I’m far from sold on its merits today — except as an easy out for a screenwriter in search of a plot device.

All that to one side, Attraction thinks it’s the new-millennium version of George Cukor’s Adam’s Rib; the sad truth is that it’s a toothless variant on the Coen Brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty — with the cruelty here being practiced on a great cast set adrift in the middle of a thankless script.

Daniel and Audrey Miller (Julianne Moore) are battling divorce lawyers each of whom has never lost a case — until they cross swords with one other. And since this is a movie, that means they’re going to fight a lot and fall in love. And such a narrow premise might have worked if it hadn’t been short-circuited by the general lack of tension to the fighting, most of which seems to take place for no reason other than to fill up the movie’s already scant running time of 80-odd minutes.

Similarly, a subplot involving a boorish rocker (Michael Sheen, Timeline) being divorced by his spoiled-brat fashion-designer wife (indie fave Parker Posey) seems to be dragged in solely for the purpose of moving the film to Ireland — so that Brosnan’s production company could get tax breaks from that country’s government. He and Moore are nice to look at, yes, and they’re likable performers who manage to make the film watchable. Still, they can’t bring it to real life any more than can the half-baked screaming antics of Sheen and Posey.

Laws of Attraction is ultimately a movie with no identity, no personality, no surprises and one good running-gag centered on an obsession with the Weather Channel. So consider this: Love Actually came out on DVD last week. If you want a good romantic-comedy fix, go rent that instead.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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