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Movie Mom

“The Laws of Attraction” demonstrates no understanding of either attraction or laws. I don’t just mean the completely innacurate portrayal of law practice and court proceedings in the film. I mean the fundamental laws that make a movie appealing to watch.

Disastrous casting, a clunker-laden script, and snooze-inducing direction repel rather than attract. Having the set-up and the look of a romantic comedy is not enough to make it one.

Julianne Moore plays Audrey, a very successful divorce lawyer who has no interest in any romantic entanglements of her own. She is very tough but she plays by the rules. Her opposing counsel in a high profile case is Daniel (Pierce Brosnan), who infuriates her by being disheveled and disrespectful and — even worse — by being extremely capable and very handsome. He is very tough and he makes his own rules. Clearly, they are destined for each other, but it will take them much too long to figure that out. Situations are not the same thing as plot, especially when the situations are just plain dull.

At one point, Daniel and Audrey start to talk about an incident but they decide not to pursue it, probably because if we ever did find out what happened it would only demonstrate how flat and unappealing the movie’s plot is by comparison. The story simply has no place to go. I wish I could say the same for the characters, who spend far too much time flying around, with two completely irrelevant trips to Ireland (possibly it was relevant to Irish native Brosnan’s decision to appear in this film).

There are a couple of good lines. I liked it when Audrey accused Daniel of thinking, “my socks don’t match; therefore I have insight into all things.” And Frances Fisher as Audrey’s eternally-young mother is the best thing in the movie. The production design is glossy, often more fun to watch than the actors. But the very talented and beautiful Julianne Moore is badly miscast and never makes Audrey a character instead of a collection of reactions. Brosnan clearly enjoys the vacation from his usual elegant roles, but no one could reconcile Daniel’s shambling Columbo act with his underhanded tricks and unabashed affection for Audrey. Parker Posey as a designer married to a rock star gives her first bad performance and Michael Sheen gives the most annoying performance of the year as her estranged husband, with all the appeal of a car alarm. Director Peter Howitt made a promising debut with Sliding Doors, but after AntiTrust and this mess, it is clear that he is better off when he’s far away from Hollywood studios, and so are we.

Parents should know that this movie portrays drinking, including drinking to excess, as evidence of machismo and as a way to bond. Characters smoke, use strong language, and have sex without knowing each other very well. There is some crude humor, including the repeated term (I am not making this up) “goat’s nut.” There are also many references to adultery, including references to strippers, prostitutes, the “three-way bossa nova,” and sexual addiction.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Audrey was so resistant to romantic involvement. How did her mother influence her?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the vastly better movies that inspired it, from Adam’s Rib with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to Move Over, Darling with Doris Day and Rock Hudson and Shall We Dance with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

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