“Life’s a martini, and you’re the shaker!”

Down with Love

Not actually a musical, though it features a couple songs. But since Ewan McGregor does sing, I sort of associate it with Moulin Rouge, hence its placement. I was about fourteen when this film came out and I remember my friend asking my mother if I could watch the movie due to the innuendos throughout the film. It stars Ewan McGregor as Catcher Block, Renee Zellweger (she’ll reunite a few years later with Ewan for Miss Potter) as Barbara Novak, Sarah Paulson (she did appear in Serenity) as Vikki Hiller, David Hyde Pierce (well known for Fraiser) as Peter MacMannus, Rachel Dratch (a comedian who appears on Saturday Night Live) as Gladys, Timothy Omundson (Cain in Supernatural) appears as R.J., and Jeri Ryan as Gwendolyn (ironic because she is now Gwendolyn Hayes, MacGyver’s aunt in the new series; also was Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager, and now on the Picard series).

The film opens with a version of Down with Love, in a very Rat Pack sound; the film is set in 1962 New York City. Barbara Novak arrives in New York City, to Banner Publishing where she meets with her editor, Vikki to promote her book, Down with Love. As she explains to the male dominated creative team, women will never be fully equal to men until they are equal in the work force and in order to do that, women need to forget the notion of love and not connect love with sex anymore. They should have sex like men do, a la carte. To aid in this, chocolate helps, as it stimulates the brain in the same way as sex. But the men don’t buy it. Except Vikki has an idea; Catcher Block, star journalist of the KNOW magazine for men will do a cover story on Barbara. But Catcher, a ladies’ man, keeps hooking up with other women and canceling his meetings; until Barbara is fed up and refuses to meet with him in return. They come up with another promotion idea: have Judy Garland sing Down with Love on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sales skyrocket around the world; even in communists countries.

Over at KNOW, owner Peter continually attempts to convince Catcher to do the article; Peter is interested in Vikki. When Barbara denounced Catcher on television as the worst sort of man, Catch is really in trouble. Now he wants to write an expose and ruin Barbara. But to do that, he can’t be himself. He runs into Barbara on purpose at a dry cleaner and adopts the persona, Zip Martin, an astronaut who has no idea Barbara has written a book. They go on lots of dates and Catch plays to be the sort of man who does not have sex.

down with love

There is a split screen scene that is hilarious and full of innuendos. Followed by a crazy sequence where Catch pretends that Peter’s apartment is his so he can impress Barbara; and Peter can use his bachelor pad to impress Vikki. Catch is on the verge of losing Barbara until “Zip” agrees to sleep with her. They both unknowingly attend a party thrown by Peter in Catch’s apartment and the whole enterprise is almost blown. It does get blown on their next date, when Catch starts to secretly record Barbara admitting she loves Catch and wants to marry him. And Gwendolyn the stewardess stops by and exposes Zip as Catch.

Except Barbara already knew that. A year previous, she had been Catch’s secretary and fallen in love; but she wanted more than meaningless sex. So she changed her name and wrote a book and correctly predicted what Catch would do. That way, she got lots of dates and Catch ended up falling in love with her. And everything is almost right; until Barbara now realizes she cannot be a typical woman anymore; she is an inspiration. Meaning, she can’t marry Catch [honestly, by this point I’m confused].

And Catch has fallen in love with Barbara. So when she starts her own magazine, after Vikki has been fired for showing up the men, Catch applies for a job, knowing that Barbara will have to interview him. Except it still seems like they won’t get back together. Until Barbara meets Catch in the elevator, a red head now and agrees to marry him. But they will retain their careers. And in the background, the same goes for Vikki and Peter (ironically, both actors come out as gay a few years later; Vikki hinted that Peter was gay in the film).

The closing credits are my favorite because of the duet between Ewan and Renee; Here’s to Love. Their characters have written a new book by that title; obviously showing how they’re managing to have the best of both worlds. It’s a fun song that shows off the talent of the leads. The film is a light-hearted comedy that I really ought to remember I have when the need arises.  Now that I’m older, the innuendos are hilarious.  Ewan as Catcher is adorable, especially when he pretends to be Zip Martin. The whole plotline around Barbara knowing what she knows and her plan gets a little confusing; but it all works out, and the coincidences are very coincidental. Her breaking the relationship off with Catcher right before the end confuses me as well; when characters realize they love each other and it’s mutual – get together for goodness’ sake!

Next Time: Newsies

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