LAWS OF ATTRACTION

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis   


                The movie:  “Laws of Attraction,” a script with enough zingers to power a good romantic comedy.    The stars:  Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore as sophisticated Manhattan divorce lawyers.  It can’t miss, can it?  But it does. 

One reason is that the razor edged lines bring quick laughs, but these are separated by long stretches full of leaden predictability.  When the dialogue works, it moves so fast it can’t keep up with itself and then rests – almost as if the scriptwriter, in justifiable pride, went out for a well deserved dinner break leaving the stars stranded in a sludge of wan material.

Audrey  (Julianne Moore) and Daniel (Pierce Brosnan) are opposing lawyers who represent the high profile ugly rich – a silly rock star, a dumb blonde.  They do what all such characters do:  they fall in love while firing verbal darts at each other.  Their insults fly the length of the courtroom counsel table.  But there is a big problem here:  Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey they aren’t. 

            Pierce Brosnan’s imitation of a laid back Spencer Tracey doesn’t fit either his personality or the power world the movie tries to portray.  His Daniel is the never-lost-a-case lawyer from Los Angeles, who slouches his way into Manhattan.  Brosnan is just too sophisticated to play a slouch.  He is, after all, James Bond and Thomas Crown.  Both he and Ms. Moore are miscast. 

Julianne Moore, an icon of independent film, has always had a certain sense of quirky mystery, the quality that also allowed her to carry a mainstream drama like “The End of the Affair.”  Ms. Moore as a repressed overachiever is just not a credible sight.  Her character, apparently invulnerable as an attorney, can’t seem to engage life on any level after she leaves the office.  She wants to be married, here’s the guy, and it’s the scriptwriter’s job to keep them apart for a couple of hours. 

            A few sharp laughs roll through the house whenever Judge Abramovitz (Nora Dunn) is on screen dealing with the battling lovers.  “If I want to sit through bickering and screaming, I’ll spend the day with my family in Scarsdale.”  She controls both her courtroom and the lawyers with a sharp tongue and a hint of appreciative compassion for their grim assignments.

            Parker Posey, another dependable actor in independents, is embarrassing as the rock star’s girlfriend.  So is the rock star.  When the film moves to Ireland to investigate which half of this unattractive pair gets the Irish castle, it’s clearly a desperate stretch to liven things up.  It doesn’t.  A comedy writer who can’t make something of New York City and Ireland is in serious trouble.  It’s tough to criticize a script that generates good laughter here and there, but it’s true that creating laughter means also having to fill the long passages in between with something other than cliché.  This is a great looking film with two popular, successful stars, and nothing works…..it’s the script thing again.


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