Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Review: America’s Sweethearts (2001) ***

I know dark comedy is a thing. Is dark romantic comedy a thing? America’s Sweethearts is a bitingly cynical comedy about the promotion of a romcom. There is also a romance in this movie between romcom staple Julia Roberts and handsomely hangdog John Cusack. But America’s Sweethearts in itself is not really a romantic comedy: it’s completely devoid of the hope, wish fulfillment, and general fantasy of love’s ability to prevail I associate with the genre.

Our Hero is an abusive addict stalking his wife, though recently he has gone loopy on a self-help journey; he seems to be communicating through about a pound of ashwagandha at any given moment. Which really does nothing to excuse the behavior where he uses his (almost ex-)wife’s sister as a romantic and sexual outlet.

Yes, because Julia Roberts is the ugly sister serving as the abused assistant for her apparently hotter sister, Catherine Zeta Jones, an actress. Roberts has always been shoved around by Zeta Jones, while pining inappropriately and heavily for husband John Cusack, but now Roberts has lost sixty pounds so she’s ready to step out of the shadows. I guess.

Basically everyone in this movie is a garbage person and love doesn’t heal anything. What *does* happen is that Christopher Walken decides to use the behind-the-scenes drama to make a “better” movie than just some new sci-if romance. Yay? Cinema is saved?

That’s not to say this is a bad movie. There are loads of great jokes and one-liners, and when I was much younger, I did get a laugh out of jokes delivered in Hank Azaria’s fake-Castilian accent. (“My penith ith bigger than cointh.”) Everyone starring in the movie knows it’s a bleak satire and delivers the right performances for it.

But it is *not* a romcom that is here to make you feel good. Nobody is really better at the end of the movie.

More than anything, America’s Sweethearts feels deeply personal. Like a movie written about movie professionals who love cinema and loathe the industry around it. The whole weird Billy Crystal dog thing makes me wonder if there’s a specific call-out happening there. I wish I could sit with him and get the gossip about his inspirations. You can’t tell me that Catherine Zeta Jones isn’t a specific starlet.

Image Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment

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