2004-05-06 / Arts & Entertainment

This Comedy Stays ‘Light, Crisp & Snappy’ Until The End

AP Entertainment Writer
By Christy Lemire
This Comedy Stays ‘Light, Crisp & Snappy’ Until The End

This Comedy Stays ‘Light, Crisp & Snappy’ Until The End

Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan co-star in the comedy, “Laws of Attraction.”                                                                 © 2004 New Line CinemaJulianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan co-star in the comedy, “Laws of Attraction.” © 2004 New Line Cinema

By Christy Lemire

AP Entertainment Writer

"Laws of Attraction" does everything "Intolerable Cruelty" tried to do, and then some.

Unlike last year’s Coen brothers romantic comedy, in which the witty banter and the repeated marrying and divorcing wore thin about two-thirds of the way in, despite the glorious George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, this movie stays light, crisp and snappy until the end.

This makes it sound like a can of soda — possibly something diet and lemon-lime flavored — but a glass of champagne is a more apt comparison. The film from director Peter Howitt ("Sliding Doors") definitely tries to evoke a fizzy, retro New York kind of energy, with its fabulous restaurants and apartments and the expensively dressed characters who inhabit them.

Whereas Clooney played a divorce lawyer and Zeta-Jones his femme fa-tale client, Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore play dueling divorce lawyers who clash in and out of court.

The casting is part of the movie’s charm: Neither actor is exactly well-known for romantic comedy work (though playing James Bond for the past decade sorta counts, since Brosnan is called upon to be romantic and co-medic at varying times).

Moore, meanwhile, has built a respected career on tormented characters, from "Boogie Nights" and "Mag-nolia" to "Far From Heaven" and "The Hours." Her few previous forays into this genre have resulted in more misses ("Nine Months") than hits ("An Ideal Husband").

So it’s a joy to watch the novelty of these two mature, sublime actors playing off each other, even if it’s in a formulaic context.

You know even before Daniel Raf-ferty and Audrey Woods meet that they’ll instantly hate each other, but ultimately end up falling in love. There isn’t much room for surprise in this kind of movie.

Rakishly handsome Daniel and prim control freak Audrey end up on opposing ends of several high-profile divorce cases before snippy Judge Abromovitz (Nora Dunn). The biggest of all involves self-involved rock star Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen, play-ing a sort of young Ozzy Osbourne) and his volatile fashion designer wife, Serena (Parker Posey, who’s so hyper, she positively vibrates).

Thorne and Serena both want control of the Irish castle they shared, which forces his lawyer, Audrey, and her lawyer, Daniel, to trek to Ireland to take depositions from the confused staff.

The cinematography of the lush Irish countryside is lovely and all, but Howitt slows the film’s pacing almost to a standstill to give us time to take it in. "Laws of Attraction’’ almost becomes an entirely different movie in Ireland, and it makes us long for the one we were watching before – especially be-cause that one included Frances Fisher as Audrey’s plastic surgery-obsessed socialite mother.

(That it’s physically impossible for Fisher, at 51, to be the mother of Moore, at 43, is only part of the joke. She’s sassy, sexy and gets many of the best lines in the script from Aline Brosh McKenna and "Steel Magnolias" writer Robert Harling.)

Something noteworthy does happen in Ireland, though: Daniel and Audrey wake up in bed together after a night of heavy drinking and realize they’ve got-ten married (which we see in trailers for the movie).

Here’s where it really resembles "Intolerable Cruelty," but thankfully the movie doesn’t drag the gag out too long. Quite the opposite: It wraps up a little too tidily, but "Laws of Attraction" has charmed so sufficiently until then, there’s no need to object.

"Laws of Attraction," is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Running time: 87 minutes.

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