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Movie Review

'Laws of Attraction': Julianne Moore is far from heaven in this comedy

Seattle Times movie critic

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We don't condemn ballerinas because they can't croon jazz tunes, or lambaste sculptors because they aren't watercolorists, so it seems entirely unfair to find fault in Julianne Moore, one of the great dramatic actresses of her generation, because she's not a screwball comedienne. Unfortunately, she's currently headlining a screwball romantic comedy, the limp "Laws of Attraction," and ... well, better to just remember her brilliance in "The Hours," "Far from Heaven" or "Safe" and give her a pass here. Maybe, after carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders in all those dramas, she just wanted to smile prettily and kiss Pierce Brosnan, and far be it from me to judge her for that.

Directed by Peter Howitt (who showed a lighter touch in his debut film, "Sliding Doors"), "Laws of Attraction" is clearly made in imitation of the romantic comedies of a bygone era. Its dueling-lawyers-in-love plot is reminiscent of the Hepburn/Tracy classic "Adam's Rib," with a plot twist that was undeniably fresher back in 1935, when it was employed in the Astaire/Rogers vehicle "Top Hat." Daniel (Brosnan) is scruffy, undisciplined and adorable; Audrey (Moore) is uptight, intense and adorable. They meet cute in the courtroom, she decides he's an oaf, and you can pretty much write the script yourself from there.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"Laws of Attraction," with Pierce Brosnan, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey, Michael Sheen, Frances Fisher, Nora Dunn. Directed by Peter Howitt, from a screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling. 87 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Several theaters.

Brosnan, combining his James Bond lady-killing charm with rumpled suits and mussable hair, is terrific at this sort of thing. At one point, Daniel plucks a food scrap off Audrey's face — she's got a secret junk-food habit — and eats it, and damned if Brosnan doesn't make it sing, turning a cringe-worthy moment into a comic bit. Unfortunately, his breeziness calls attention to Moore's effortful performance — you can see her thinking through everything, trying desperately to make sense out of a character we'd never believe in real life. (Meryl Streep approaches comedy this way, too, but it works better — you can at least see that she's amused by the process.)

"Laws of Attraction" sags where it should float, going through the motions of putting Daniel and Audrey together, apart, and together again. It's not awful, but it feels tired, like it's just another in a long line of cookie-cutter movies about pretty people. Comedy is hard work, but the work shouldn't show — and it shouldn't be an effort to sit through.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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