Laura Clifford Robin Clifford
Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore, "Far From Heaven") is an uptight, successful NYC divorce attorney whose profession has made her an anti-dating advocate. Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan, "Evelyn") is a laid-back, unconventional divorce lawyer who is pitted against and piqued by Audrey upon his return to the Big Apple. As the sparring duo continually find themselves on opposing sides of the same cases, they spark media interest and something more as they debate the "Laws of Attraction."
Pierce Brosnan turns on his Irish charm in spades and Frances Fischer ("House of Sand and Fog") has a field day as Audrey's mom, a wealthy woman with more lust for life than her buttoned-up daughter, but an incompetent and obvious screenplay (Aline Brosh McKenna, Robert Harling ("Steel Magnolias")) derails "Laws of Attraction."
As Audrey prepares to enter the courtroom with her client to fight a multi-million dollar battle, she is alarmed to discover her opposing counsel has been replaced with an unknown quantity. After drowning her fears with Hostess Snowballs in a bathroom stall, Audrey, now all pressed professionalism, marches into court to discover Rafferty sprawled and asleep. Rafferty surprises, though, and turns tables on Audrey, winning a postponement. He further ruffles her feathers by correctly identifying the crumb in the corner of her mouth with an impromptu taste test, then addresses the media on the courthouse steps, saying she has a 'snowball's chance in hell' of winning.
The two begin a battle of wits and sexes that comes to a head during their highest profile case. Audrey and Daniel have come to something of an understanding during the negotiations between a British rock star, Thorne (Michael Sheen, "Underworld"), and his famous designer wife, Serena (Parker Posey, "Personal Velocity") until the couple locks horns over their Irish castle. The lawyers travel to Ireland separately to take dispositions from the castle help. After letting their hair down at a local, booze-drenched festival, Audrey is hysterical to discover herself next to Daniel in bed when she awakens the next morning. While this has happened before, earlier in the relationship, the Irish episode has a major twist - wedding rings on both of their fingers. Anxious not to appear a legal laughingstock, Audrey begs Daniel not to divulge their marriage while she works to have it dissolved. Upon their return to New York, though, they're outed by the New York Post, so Audrey decides it is better to display the appearance of wedded harmony.
Director Peter Howitt ("Johnny English," "Sliding Doors") never attains a fluid beat with this dishonest romantic comedy, instead delivering an episodic, bumpy ride that feels far longer than its ninety minute running time. Performance styles are also unevenly matched. Brosnan is delightful as the infuriatingly laid back lawyer, almost managing to obscure the obnoxious character flaws the screenwriters would have its audience forget with a masterfully placed furrow of brows. Moore, on the other hand, is an unnatural comedienne ("Evolution," anyone?). Her pratfalls look practiced, although she does well milking her character's insecurities. Fischer, a terrific casting choice for Moore's mother, includes us in the fun she has portraying a woman who seeks pleasure and youth with no apologies. Also amusing is Nora Dunn ("Runaway Jury") as the judge who continually finds herself in the middle of romantic tiffs masquerading as legal wrangling. Posey and Sheen both play over the top characters too broadly, however, creating cartoons instead of real people.
"Laws of Attraction" takes two very attractive people and in typical romantic comedy fashion makes them total opposites who fight their mutual attraction. But its screenwriters fail to offer real motivation to put them together. Daniel is such an obvious catch, yet he is single and instantly committed to a humorless drone. Audrey holds her ground until Daniel pulls an unethical dirty courtroom trick, then allows her emotions to take hold? All this and a twee trip to Ireland is just too much malarkey and "Laws of Attraction" is a major disappointment.
Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore) is at the top of her game as a high profile and incredibly successful New York City divorce attorney. She attributes her success to going by the book and is a bit flustered when she loses a lucrative case to Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan), a handsome, rumpled looking lawyer who practices law by the seat of his pants – and wins. As the two counselors compete against each other in one case after another they come to realize that they have fallen under the “Laws of Attraction.”
The filmmakers hoped that they had the makings of a Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy classic a la “Woman of the Year” and “Adam’s Rib,” but, the screenplay for “Laws of Attraction,” by Aline Brosh McKenna, Karey Kirkpatrick and Robert Harling from a story by McKenna, does not come even remotely close to the charm and the wit of these classic battle-of-the-sexes films. What we have, instead, is a light as air story that benefits from a charm-your-pants-off performance by Pierce Brosnan and a sharp-as-a-tack perf by Francis Fisher as Audrey’s vain, attractive, youth envying but smart mother.
The story goes through a clichéd series of events that inexorably lead to the prescribed finale where you know the opponents from early in the film will fall in love, marry and live happily ever after. The problem is the getting there is too trite to sustain the under 90-minute romantic comedy.
We meet super-confident divorce lawyer Audrey as she is heading into a trial that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars for her client, but not before she has an anxiety attack and requires a sugar fix in the form of Hostess Snowballs. In walks distracted, rumpled and very handsome Daniel who proceeds to turn Audrey’s open and shut victory into a debacle. They say opposites attract and the uptight, sugar-junkie, perfectionist Audrey is quite taken by the casual insouciance of Daniel but she still strives to do her best for her clients. The two attorneys go toe-to-toe in one case after another with Daniel besting her time and again in court – while he courts her in other ways.
Things get interesting when Audrey is approached by popular fashion designer, Serena (Parker Posey), who is very unhappy with her womanizing, rock star husband, Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen). Audrey counts this encounter as money in the bank for her law firm until Daniel shows up as Serena’s attorney of choice. Miffed, Audrey takes on the task of representing Thorne and his effort to keep his Castle of Rock in Ireland from falling into Serena’s hands. Daniel and Audrey both decide to trek to the Emerald Isle to get separate depositions from the castle staff to support their respective cases. They fall for the charms of the Irish magic while attending a local festival, get really drunk and end up in each other’s arms the next morning – with bands on the fourth finger of the left hand.
Audrey is shocked by the sudden realization of her nuptials but Daniel is happy as a clam and moves into her apartment, even if he is restricted from her boudoir. Audrey’s mom, Sara (Fisher), ever the advisor to her control-freak daughter, lobbies for the marriage but Daniel crosses a line when he uses privileged information as evidence against Audrey’s client. The remainder of the film moves to resolve this conflict and bring the battling lawyers together but does so without imagination.
Julianne Moore is a fine dramatic actress with an exemplary track record with more serious venues like “Far From Heaven,” “The Hours” and “Boogie Nights.” But, she has never shown the same gift for comedy. I guess that old adage, “drama is easy, comedy is hard,” holds true for Moore, who lacked any sense of comic timing in the mediocre “Evolution” (2001) and equally bland “Nine Months” (1995). In “Laws of Attraction,” director Peter Howitt, has the Oscar nominated actress playing the uptight control freak who falls for handsome, rumpled Daniel – of course. Audrey has her problems, though, as an unmarried sugar junkie with lots of insecurities. The opposites attract theme is better handled by Brosnan.
Brosnan easily sheds the suave James Bond persona he has cultivated as the world’s most famous spy. In its place, he looks like an unmade bed and shirks sleekness for comfort in court and elsewhere. His comfortable, rumpled character is readily taken by Audrey but the story has her protesting her attraction until the finale. As such, Brosnan is the anchor for “Laws of Attraction” while Moore must go through an unconvincing metamorphosis.
The small supporting cast is bested by Frances Fisher who steals the show from Moore every time she appears on the screen. Parker Posey and Michael Sheen, as Serena and Thorn, add little to the mix except as the objects of the lawyers’ legal battle. Nora Dunn does a solid job as Judge Abramovitz, the no nonsense adjudicator who presides over the high profile divorce case.
Helmer Peter Howitt, with the very slight script-by-committee, has a tough job in breathing life into a story that, without Brosnan and Fisher, would be stillborn. He benefits from these experienced thesps and avoids disaster. “Laws of Attraction” is not a bad movie but, with a more developed story (and someone with comic sense to play the femme lead), it could have been a whole lot better. I give it a C.
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