Laws of Attraction must have looked soooo good on paper–a romantic comedy script which, in the great tradition of His Girl Friday and Adam’s Rib, sets up a couple for whom personal attraction is complicated by professional rivalry, with plot complications resulting in on-again-off-again romance. Add to the formula a couple of attractive, charming and accomplished actors, Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan, and it’s a sure-fire hit, right?
If Laws of Attraction were a TV sitcom, it would be canceled before the second show. His Girl Friday had a witty script by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Adam’s Rib had the creative hilarity of writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. The screenwriter to blame here is Aline Brush McKenna who has one prior feature to her credit (Three to Tango, which Roger Ebert called "an Idiot Plot" and the New York Times labeled "strained and shallow"). Laws of Attraction is her second strike and if investors had any sense, she’d be out before getting up to bat again.
The first of the central pair is Audrey Miller (Moore), a hugely successful, by-the-book, civilized divorce lawyer (if that is not a contradiction in terms), the daughter of a beautiful mother who remains so with the miracles of modern dermatology (Frances Fisher, who manages somehow to inject some energy into even these tired lines). But Audrey is still single and insecure in matters of the heart. Her opposing attorney in a divorce case is Daniel Rafferty, a genial, rascally realist who is honest enough to be able to say, "Divorce lawyers are the fungus beneath the scum."(Funny?)
Audrey goes to Daniel’s office which turns out to be a disorganized mess in a Chinatown tenement over a grocery store. With the assistance of potent alcoholic drinks ("huevos de chivo" – goat’s balls – are you hysterical yet?) they end up in bed.
From there it is misunderstanding and conflict followed by resolution followed by misunderstanding and conflict, ad infinitum. In an attempt to resuscitate what should clearly have been left to die, the plot offers its variations with further legal battles–particularly that of a rock star and his designer wife (Michael Sheen and Parket Posey) who are as unappealing as they are unfunny. Things getting a bit slow? Add a trip to a castle in Ireland, inject some energy with Riverdancing-type Irish folk dancing and drinking contests. Things really mired down? Put a Norah Jones cut on the soundtrack.
Audrey’s character is unconvincing because her background (first in her class at Yale), her profession and her smarts overwhelm the "insecure little girl" premise. Daniel doesn’t change a whit throughout the film. Frances Fisher doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. So–the plot is silly, the characters weak, the jokes are tepid, and there’s not a bit of wit to be found anywhere.
Rent His Girl Friday and Adam’s Rib and save your bucks on this turkey.