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Laws of Attraction

Opposites attract- sort of

There are many things a critic will not like about this movie: both characters are such extreme opposites that one has a hard time rooting for them to come together; the script suffers from a severe shortage of believable character development and memorable punch lines; and Julianne Moore looks about as natural in her part opposite Pierce Brosnan as a tarantula on a wedding cake. And yet, surprisingly, the movie didn't upset me enough to dismiss it out of hand, in part because I didn't expect anything out of the ordinary to begin with, but mostly because it doesn't claim to be anything else than what it is: a silly little romantic comedy that espouses that love and marriage is something worth fighting for.

The plot is as simple as the movie's predictable outcome: Moore and Brosnan play two accomplished divorce lawyers who have never lost a case until they are both pitted against each other. First in a low-profile divorce that barely makes the society pages of the New York Post, and then in a nasty public divorce battle between a dimwit rock star (Michael Sheen) and his fiery designer wife (Parker Posey) whose over-the-top performances are supposed to counterpoint and bring to a boil the passions and desires that hide underneath the professional veneer of Moore's and Brosnan's characters. Moore's character loses the first case and the second case is ultimately dismissed, making Brosnan's character come out on top yet again, not only because he had the case almost bagged but also because, in the end, he gets his woman. No spoilers or surprises here.

Of the many problems the movie has, the one that is the most bothersome is that we are supposed to believe that Moore's character, who follows the law by the book and has all the smarts that come with being a Yalie who graduated top of her class, would frequently let herself be blindsided by Brosnan's character, who plays as dirty as he can within the limits of the law all while trying to fashion an image of a charming, street-smart romantic and a bohemian, who reads Andre Gide in his spare time and who actually doesn't believe in divorce. (At one point he says, "Being a divorce lawyer is only a job. Couples should fight to stay married instead of giving in.")

There is nothing exceptional about the movie's script or how it is executed and filmed; in fact, despite being shot on location in Ireland and New York City, much of the film has the flair and feel of a made-for-TV movie that might just as easily have been a pilot for a TV series. Although it tries its best to speed along a string of comedic situations, it constantly trips and falls over its own predictable course of action. A far cry from the romantic comedies of the 40s and 50s that pitched Katherine Hepburn against Spencer Tracy or Rock Hudson against Doris Day to which Laws of Attraction aspires, the film lacks the intellectual banter, spunk, and timing that made those movies the classics they are. Throughout, the film coaxes little more than smiles from its viewer's lips instead of the barrels of laughs that a film in this genre should own. Still, the movie will appeal to grown-ups who are easily amused, stood in line to see Something's Gotta Give, and would sign up for tickets to Dr. Phil.