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Dustin Putman

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Laws of Attraction (2004)
1 Stars

Directed by Peter Howitt
Cast: Julianne Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Frances Fisher, Parker Posey, Michael Sheen, Nora Dunn, Mina Badie, Adam Goodwin, Mike Doyle, Vincent Marzello, Johnny Myers, Brette Taylor
2004 – 90 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sexual situations and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 30, 2004.

"Laws of Attraction," a romantic comedy about two ace divorce lawyers who fall in love as they represent opposing sides of a case, is nearly as tedious as it is unfunny. Reminiscent of a modern-day retelling of 1949's "Adam's Rib," stars Julianne Moore (2002's "The Hours") and Pierce Brosnan (2002's "Die Another Day") are more than capable as actors, but any hopes of their romance igniting the sparks of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are shattered right from the start. Moore and Brosnan have no palpable chemistry together, and under the incapable helm of director Peter Howitt (2003's "Johnny English") and screenwriters Aline Brosh McKenna (1999's "Three to Tango") and Robert Harling, they are asked to perform well below their obvious natural intelligence.

Manhattan divorce attorneys Audrey Miller (Julianne Moore) and Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) are at the top of their respective field, collectively never having lost a single case. When Daniel moves back to the east coast and meets Audrey, there is an attraction at first sight. Audrey, however, does not return the gesture. Going through divorces day in and day out has left her a hardened, cynical woman, uninterested in marriage or even having a relationship ("A trial-run marriage," as she describes it). Following a night of letting loose with a whole lot of drinks over a business dinner, Audrey is horrified to wake up in Daniel's bed. And when the two of them later decide to represent the divorce proceedings of fashion designer Serena (Parker Posey) and rock star Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen) and, once again, end up together and married after a drunken night, Audrey can no longer deny that Daniel might be the right guy for her.

"Laws of Attraction" is a trying slog through a formula romance that is exempt of energy and surprises. It is crystal-clear where the story is going every step of the way, which would have been acceptable had the characters of Audrey and Daniel seemed right for each other. They don't, and as much as Pierce Brosnan gazes at Moore with hearts in his eyes, he came off looking more like a leering perv. Meanwhile, Audrey outwardly holds so much disdain for Daniel throughout that her reversal of feelings in the third act creak with the machinations of a simple plot requirement needing to be filled. The characters simply are not a plausible match for each other, and no amount of loyal work from Moore and Brosnan can change this.

If the romantic aspect of the story is lackluster, then its comedic intentions fail to an even greater degree. The one-liners, if you can call them that, are dreary and lame, and the pratfalls and crutches Audrey is given only act to dumb her down. She knocks files off desks, freaks out on a dime and makes a fool of herself, and, despite winning all of her cases and being confident in court, she secretly pigs out on junk food in bathroom stalls to nurture her anxiety. That's an awfully original character trait (insert sarcasm). Based on what is glimpsed in the finished product, Audrey is unbelievable as a Yale graduate who finished at the top of her class.

Meanwhile, director Peter Howitt proves that he does not know the first thing about courtroom behavior. Each and every court scene is awkwardly written, vague, and uninvolving, and because of this Daniel and Audrey are unable to show the viewer why they are regarded as such fine lawyers. Howitt makes the mistake too often of telling his audience information on the characters, rather than showing them, which makes the entire enterprise implausible.

In a rare film role outside of the spy genre, Pierce Brosnan is at ease but unmemorable as the self-assured, smarmy Daniel Rafferty. As Audrey Miller, Julianne Moore is a more accomplished performer, and it is a testament to her abilities that she can be so very good even in the most fruitless of parts. Supporting the two leads, Frances Fisher (2003's "House of Sand and Fog") gets to be amiably brash and outspoken as Audrey's mother, Sara, but there is a missed opportunity here to explore this potentially interesting mother-daughter relationship. After all, there is something to be said for a beautiful woman to constantly feel overshadowed by her hip, glamorous, Botoxed mother. Finally, Parker Posey (2002's "Personal Velocity") and Michael Sheen (2003's "Timeline") are shrill and grungy as the feuding couple going through a vicious divorce.

"Laws of Attraction" may mercifully clock in at only 90 minutes, but that is still about 90 too long. The time spent watching this hackneyed waste is interminable, frustrating, and quite boring. A shameful excuse for a star vehicle for Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan, "Laws of Attraction" won't likely even stand as a footnote on either of their respective careers. Having only seen it myself just two hours ago, it has already begun to drift from my memory.
© 2004 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman