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A pair of likeable stars saddled with a woefully bad script
on 31 August 2004
"Laws of Attraction" is a romantic comedy about two high-powered divorce lawyers who are battling each other in and out of court. The movie from Hollywood history that obviously comes to mind as a reference point is "Adam's Rib" with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. But the reason this 2004 film falls short is not because it has Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore instead of Tracy and Hepburn, but because the story and screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna ("Three to Tango"), worked on by Robert Harling ("The First Wives Club"), is not even close to being in the same league as what Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon wrote for their good friends Spencer and Kate way back when.
There is nothing wrong with the casting of this film. Brosnan and Moore are both personable enough, and Frances Fisher does a nice turn as the mother of Moore's character. Brosnan is Daniel Rafferty and Moore is Audrey Woods. She is a perfectionist who is wound too tight, crying in a stall in the women's room before she goes to court, while he is so unwound that he falls asleep in court before the trial starts. The only thing they have in common is that neither one of them has ever lost a divorce case, so obviously they are perfect for each other. Audrey will be the last one to figure this out and the problem is not that this storyline is predictable, but that it is uninspiring.
This becomes clear early in the film when Daniel and Audrey go up against each other in court for the first time. She is a bit too uptight and he is a bit too laid back; the more you think about it the more you find it hard to believe either one is really undefeated in court. But then one of them loses for the first time, which is fine because we know this is only the first round of this particular fight, which is going the distance, so it makes sense that the other one wins the second time. But instead of being treated to a similar scene in which we see them do something that wins them the case, we just hear them tell about it on the courtroom steps. The best part of the movie comes next, with a montage that offers a couple of cute bits as the two continue to wage wars. But a montage relatively early in the film should not be the best part, there should have been even better moments worked into it, and we should have had the scene in the courtroom for the second trial to prove each of these lawyers are true heavyweights.
The last half of the movie has to do with the biggest fight of all, which is a divorce case involving a rock star (Michael Sheen) and a dress designer (Parker Posey) whose names I forget because neither one is an attractive character. I suppose this matters because it means our sympathies are not with one of them over the other. A knock out fight in open court can be avoided but both of them want to keep the castle they have in Ireland, which requires our two stars to fly over there to check out the place (poor them). If you saw the preview you know that the two posh lawyers from America get drunk and end up married.
You can probably figure out what happens in the rest of the film because we have seen this story a few times before. Brosnan and Moore have chemistry, but this movie cannot come up with much for them to do besides get drunk as an excuse for things to happen next and walk in the fog. Going to Ireland is a plus, but even that is not exploited for as much as it might have been. "Laws of Attraction" is a film that requires one of these smart lawyers to do something incredibly stupid just to set up the last act of the story, which only serves as another bitter reminder of how inadequate the script is for this film.
Brosnan and Moore deserved much better than "Laws of Attraction" and you can only hope that they will get to do a film again some day with a much better script, which actually would not be hard given how close this one was to rock bottom. Remember, even Tracy and Hepburn did "Keeper of the Flame" and "Sea of Grass" together and survived both of those films. Fans of Brosnan and/or Moore are going to check this one out, but they are going to be disappointed in the results because they have to know this one could be so much better.