Laws of Attraction (PG-13) ★½

Review Date: May 3rd, 2004

In this modern take on the classic screwball comedy, Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore star as divorce attorneys who suffer from one of those old Hollywood predicaments--opposites attract.


Julianne Moore plays Audrey Woods, an undefeated divorce attorney whose neurotic need for junk food and impossibly hip mom (Frances Fisher) might be the reasons for why she's been single all her 35 years (in Hollywood logic anyway). While marching into a particularly messy divorce case she meets Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan), a slovenly but damn sexy divorce attorney who also has never lost a case in spite of his seemingly precarious methods. He's immediately smitten, but she's uptight or in denial or a combination of the two, even after they get drunk a half an hour into the film and fall into bed. Oops. They find themselves at battle when Audrey courts a kooky but famous dress designer getting a divorce (Parker Posey) who opts to hire Daniel as her laywer, leading an infuriated Audrey to take on the philandering rock star husband as her client. While Audrey and Daniel compete, they scope out the estranged couple's biggest asset--a glorious castle in Ireland. In Lucky Charm land, where everything is apparently a party, the attorneys loosen up at a local festival dancing jigs and getting drunk again. This time they not only sleep with each other, but get married! Disaster! What to do?


Moore has so far, been the queen of torment, specializing in women who've suffered from maladies ranging from cocaine addiction (Boogie Nights), severe environmental allergies (Safe) and repressed lesbianism (The Hours). Maybe she wanted to take a vacation from the dark side by tackling a character who's biggest problem is her Cheetos consumption, but more likely she thought playing (gasp!) funny would further prove her acting mettle. But getting laughs is a lot tougher than it looks if you're good, and really really tough looking if you're not. Awkwardly stumbling through this fifth-rate screwball comedy, Moore is positively tragic, thudding out one-liners with the grace of a wounded deer. The breezy Brosnan fares better, only because his ingratiating lilt and calm demeanor makes him at least charming, though when, in one ''funny'' scene, he picks a fleck of food off her face, puts in his mouth and utters the name of a Hostess product (''Snowball...'')--even he can't make that sexy.


Director Peter Howitt attempts to capture the sparkle and magic of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, specifically their legal screwball Adam's Rib, but considering this is the same director who un-funnied Rowan Atkinson in the abysmal Johnny English, why anyone would trust him with such a feat is baffling. Maybe it was his other hilarious film, Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow, that convinced 'em. Right. Working with the ham-fisted screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling (if we are to assume this is the actual first draft), Howitt directs with little distinction other than managing to make the typically side-splitting Parker Posey barely half hearted. Though there are a few moments that garner a mini giggle, Laws of Attraction is lazy and, at 90 minutes, lumbering. Howitt's idea of humor is placing a Hostess pastry in front of the luminous Moore and making James Bond work in a sloppy office (Get it? Yeah…). In the famous words of a five-year-old, it's so funny we forgot to laugh.

Bottom Line

You can't really blame Moore and Brosnan for the comedic mediocrity that is Laws of Attraction, when they're working under a director whose only way of jump-starting the plot is to get his characters drunk so they'll loosen up--which, if you read AA literature, might make them official alcoholics. Comedy? More like tragedy.