Laws Of Attraction

"Slumming" doesn't seem nearly strong enough a term to describe what Julianne Moore does in Laws Of Attraction. What could possibly have prompted one of film's most adventurous and uncompromising actresses to accept a role that feels like Meg Ryan's sloppy seconds? The answer presumably involves a check with a lot of zeroes on it, but greed isn't a sufficient rationale, either. Did New Line kidnap Moore's family and threaten to kill them unless she appeared in the film?

Essentially a Nora Ephronized version of Intolerable Cruelty, this cookie-cutter romantic comedy casts Moore as a self-absorbed, uptight divorce attorney whose career as a legal pit bull has flourished at the expense of every other aspect of her life. Moore's only friend appears to be her hip, sassy mother Frances Fisher, who channels Stockard Channing in a role that's more wisecracking sidekick than concerned mom. (Which makes sense, since she's only eight years older than Moore.)

A whiz in the courtroom and a mess everywhere else, Moore finds a potent nemesis in rival divorce lawyer Pierce Brosnan, whose ramshackle exterior hides a sharp mind, a trick he seems to have borrowed from a certain TV detective played by Peter Falk. Brosnan and Moore initially despise each other, but in a shocking turn of events, their hatred morphs into passion. And, following a romantic trip to a theme-park version of Ireland—all colorful locals, binge drinking, and lilting brogues—they end up in bed together, wearing makeshift wedding rings. The rules of the genre dictate that Brosnan's freewheeling spontaneity must melt Moore's ice-queen demeanor, but at the end of the movie, she seems to be the same grating, unlikable harpy she was at the beginning.

Moore works to feign vitality where none exists, but that just makes it even more embarrassing to watch her writhe around fruitlessly in the most thankless and ill-fitting of roles. She evokes a lot of sympathy in Laws Of Attraction, but not for the reasons the filmmakers intended.

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