If you’re looking for lively, low cost entertainment, I suggest you go to divorce court. I’ve never been, but if the real ones are anything like the pretend ones in Laws of Attraction, you’ll be in for some big fun, with attractive male and female lawyers flirting with each other or exchanging colorful insults until a crusty but understanding judge finally orders them to pipe down.
And if that isn’t entertaining enough, you can enjoy the wild antics of the couples getting divorced as they scream at each other and occasionally climb onto a table to stand and shout for a while. Who knew that the dissolution of a marriage could be such a hoot?
Just so you know, there are films that can be enjoyed on a pleasant-if-you-don’t-think-about-it level. You can take such a dispos-a-movie and accept it for what it is, or you can be ornery, refuse to cooperate and pick it apart. I have selected the latter option.
Laws of Attraction was made for people that look forward to public radio pledge drives. It’s one of those romantic comedies that takes place on some parallel Earth where everything revolves around good-looking people whose every lame remark is considered urbane. On this planet, string sections lie in wait, counting the moments until they can underscore a romantic moment, or pluck along with each step made during a mischievous adventure. Rock Hudson and Doris Day used to live on one of these planets, but they are long gone.
Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan, two of my favorite actors, are the stars du jour. She plays an easily frazzled divorce lawyer who desperately needs to loosen up a little. He plays a suave divorce lawyer of Irish descent, a lovable rascal who needs to be tethered down a bit more. Brosnan has played this type of character many times before and breezes through the role. Moore is too smart for her part and has more difficulties.
Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling’s screenplay first introduces Audrey Woods (Moore), ace New York divorce lawyer in a high-powered law firm. Her life is perfectly ordered, until she meets Daniel Rafferty (Brosnan), an equally skilled divorce attorney whose tactics are more down and dirty than most. Oh, how the sparks fly.
When the pair isn’t putting on a vaudeville show in court (Nora Dunn, who is too talented for throwaway roles like this, plays one of the world-weary judges), Audrey finds herself snooping through Daniel’s office or stomping angrily into the men’s room after him. Most evenings she goes home from all the kookiness to her mother, Sara (Frances Fisher), one of those painfully kicky only-in-the-movies old people that covets youth, jabbers about all the plastic surgery she’s had and spews one-liners that even Joan Rivers would consider too dusty to use. On at least two other evenings, Audrey goes out drinking and ends up in the sack with some guy the next morning. This happens because, as everyone knows, there is nothing funnier than people getting drunk to the point of blacking out — at least, not on the parallel Earth where this film is set.
I wondered if the screenwriters put rocking mother Sara into the story to make Audrey appear more normal by comparison. I wondered, that is, until I saw rock star Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen) and his fashion designer wife Serena (Parker Posey), a couple whose infantile behavior makes Daniel and Audrey look positively sophisticated by comparison. Such embarrassing performances.
Sheen behaves as if he just stumbled over from the set of The Young Ones and Posey, maintaining her trademark brittleness even while going spaz, comes off like Courtney Love reenacting her recent mega-bizarre appearance on the David Letterman show — times 10. The warring pair want a divorce and guess who each hires as their attorney? What a coincidence! Each of the lampshade wearers really wants only one thing — the family castle in Ireland. What a coincidence! Each of their lawyers head to Ireland to check out the castle and ends up arriving at the same time. What a coincidence!
Even still more wackiness ensues, but I don’t want to ruin the plot, such as it is, and besides, I’m running out of ways to convey the notion of being both vulgar and sassy. But Laws of Attraction director Peter Howitt (Steel Magnolias, Soapdish) appears to have an endless supply.