Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is an architect for a New York firm, and though she mostly designs underground car parks at the moment, she is hopeful of a promotion if her latest project goes well. The trouble is, little else in her life is going well, as she is stuck in a pokey apartment with a dog who doesn't care about her, her neighbour across the corridor is a drug dealer, everyone at work treats her as their personal dogsbody when they notice her at all... It's not great, and her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) spends hours watching romantic comedies on her computer screen, something that riles Natalie, for she detests the false goals and presentation of the whole genre...
Here's a case of having your cake and eating it too, though that was more likely down to the test audiences demanding a reshoot than anything that was in the original concept. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson was a veteran of comedy shorts before he made his horror spoof The Final Girls, where real people were landed in a fake horror movie and reacted in humorous ways, so essentially Isn't It Romantic (shouldn't there be a question mark in that title?) was that concept only borrowing mightily from the clichés of romcoms as developed in Hollywood post-that year zero of Pretty Woman; though earlier examples were referred to as well, this examined the nineties and after.
Particularly since that period of two, nearly three, decades, had so overdone the tricks and familiarity that they had sabotaged themselves and caused the whole style to be reviled by all but the most dedicated fan, of which there were still a fair few, it's not as if the whole romcom thing had died out completely. But the fact this existed indicated that we had entered the parody section of the genre (that happened to the slasher flick as well), always a strong hint that it needed shaking up, and Wilson was the gal who thought she could do it. Not a conventional lead for this type of movie, she didn't pretend she was, and her eye-rolling dissatisfaction provided many of the biggest laughs.
What happens to Natalie is that she is mugged on the subway and knocks herself out in her bid to get away, which means we get a Wizard of Oz set-up where she is able, in her comatose state, to undertake what in more mystical circles would be termed lucid dreaming. Yes, thanks to movieland, she has arrived in a romcom herself, also something of a cliché, but damn if they didn't commit to it, piling on the sunny colours (except the big kissing scene, when it rains), having Natalie baffled that everything is so unrealistically nice now, and landing her with a hunky suitor who happens to be a rich businessman (Liam Hemsworth) to "complete" her when before she didn't really feel like she needed completing. The rest of this played out to make her wonder if she did or not, to reach a surprising conclusion.
Or it would have been a lot more surprising if they had not gone for two endings that almost contradicted each other, unless you bought the line that loving yourself rather than yearning after an unrealistic goal of the perfect man would, funnily enough, make you more attractive to the person you should have been with all along, so it was a win/win for the newly enlightened heroine. Heroine of a romcom, rather than real life, that was. Put those reservations aside - unless you really liked the hackneyed plot points of romcoms and were determined to see them played out no matter what - and you had a very funny item that unsentimentally nailed the big lies these efforts peddled with wit and, well, sarcasm, as befitting Wilson's accustomed, sardonic screen persona. If you wanted to see a comedy that went for the romcom jugular, you should really see They Came Together, which was a lot more hilarious than this, but don't do Isn't It Romantic down, it may be hypocritical, but it convincingly made that part of the joke. Music by John Debney.