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Laws of Attraction is so generic, it oughta be illegal.

Brosnan and Moore deserve a better movie -- and so do we.
  • Brosnan and Moore deserve a better movie -- and so do we.

Laws of Attraction is the kind of film you might mistake for "cute" or "charming" at first glance. Maybe you'll open the paper and spot the ad with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore canoodling, and think to yourself how nice it would be to see James Bond defrosting indie film's go-to ice queen in a romantic comedy. Or maybe you will see the TV ad or the coming-attractions trailer and think to yourself (if you're over the age of 45), "Gosh, they haven't made 'em like that since Hepburn and Tracy were alive." Two beautiful people playing divorce attorneys on opposite sides of a case, bickering and bantering, guzzling booze and sucking face, falling into bed and in love, realizing their relationship is bad for business, but dagnabit, who cares, anyway? -- it's the stuff of classic screwball romance, you'll tell yourself, a candidate for Turner Classic Movies enshrinement in the near future. You will, of course, be wrong.

Every so often a movie comes along that offers so much of so little that you're left wondering why anyone bothered writing it -- much less financing it, casting it, and releasing it. You know the type: a movie in which everything you expect to happen does, again and again and again; a movie in which people act just as you expect them to and don't evolve, so much as defrost; a movie in which the outcome is revealed in the poster, leaving the movie a mere after-the-fact formality. Nothing about Laws of Attraction is remotely original; even its title has the dull ring of the generic, like Opposites Attract or He Said, She Said. See it or don't. You will never notice the difference.

Yes, yes -- romantic comedies are by their nature formulaic; they haven't been a novelty since Clark Gable's day. But this one's hardly romantic and scarcely a comedy. The paucity of wit gives it away; so does the absence of sparks. Laws of Attraction is a straight line without a single left turn; that Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling are even allowed to have story and screenplay credit is unfathomable: Better to credit the entire membership of the Writers Guild of America, because at least that'd be more honest.

And director Peter Howitt, good with Sliding Doors, but very bad with Johnny English, manages to absolutely waste a cast that could transform tripe into a five-course meal. Seeing Pierce Brosnan all tousled and disheveled made me want to marry him. But he's stuck with a moribund role in Daniel Rafferty, a paragon without flaw or foible, which renders him about as interesting as a sheet of blank paper. Julianne Moore is seldom bad in anything, but her Audrey Woods is one of those doggedly single women who appear in movies about doggedly single women who refuse to accept romance and love and marriage and blahblahblah; she's given nothing but the archetype and asked to fill in the blank, which she does with more blanks. Never has Moore looked less comfortable in a movie.

Also wasted is Parker Posey as Serena, an aspiring fashion designer. But most disquieting is the casting of Frances Fisher as Moore's mother, Sara; Fisher's a mere eight years older than Moore and looks almost the same age.

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