Idol Chatter

ReneeZellwegerNewinTown.jpgFull disclosure: I am a sap when it comes to romantic comedies, and, save “Last Chance Harvey,” it’s been quite a dry spell these last few months in the cinema for the genre. Therefore, I’m pleased to announce the arrival of “New In Town,” starring Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr., as Lucy and Ted, in theaters January 30th. It will satisfy just about anyone looking for a nice, happy love story–if that person is also someone avoiding the kind of “romantic” movie of the Judd Apatow frat-boy variety (aka, me). This is the good old-fashioned kind of romance, heavy on the sweet, and low to nonexistent on the vulgar physical comedy (I can’t believe I need to qualify movies this way now).
Yes, “New In Town” is predictable–high-fashion Miami girl wants promotion but has to schlep to nowheresville Minnesota (heavy on the oooh-tah) to prove herself, has a hard time at first, but ultimately wins the whole town over and lands a man–but then who cares? I enjoyed watching Lucy’s conversion from Ms. Nasty Sarcasm (like when sweet-natured townie Blanche inquires whether or not Lucy’s “found Jesus,” Lucy quips, “I didn’t know he was missing!” all self-satisfied with herself about this response), to Ms. I-Love-It-Here. It’s a ninety minute cross between “Gilmore Girls” and “Men In Trees,” complete with quirky, small-town folks, lots of baked goods, freezing temperatures, and, of course, the requisite one single girl (Lucy), whose “new in town,” and one (there’s always, only one) lonely, very eligible widow (Ted). Add the predictable storyline–Lucy and Ted fight at first, apologize, come to like each other, things fall apart again, but everything will come out all right (you know the drill)–and you have yourself the basics for every romantic comedy ever made.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a little tear with all that small town love being heaped on Lucy, transforming her sense of life’s meaning, purpose, and where she wants to plant her roots for life. It also doesn’t mean I didn’t sigh when Lucy and Ted finally figure out their angry friction is really attraction for each other.

As for performances, the award goes to Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who plays Blanche Gunderson, the scrap-booking, tapioca-making, Jesus-loving secretary and town’s center character to Lucy’s hard-hearted (at least at first) boss. Blanche knows all the town’s gossip and knows her way into everyone’s heart, too. And between her accent and running commentary throughout the film, she’s the film’s heart and comedic soul. Hogan’s performance is worth the price of the ticket alone.
“New In Town” is a family-friendly, female-friendly, light on the faith (really, not at all heavy-handed) romantic comedy. Finally! It seems like it’s been ages since I’ve been able to say that about a movie. Hopefully it will tide you over until February, when the book-turned-movie Confessions of a Shopaholic releases in theaters (yay!). Enjoy.
Renee Zellweger at

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