Manufacturing Love

Amanda Marie Alvarado

People watch romances to feel their heart race, a burst of warmth in their cheeks and to smell life’s infinite wonder in the air. They even go to experience a hollowness in the chest or an aching that stops one’s breath. People attend romantic-comedies to feel giddiness, vulnerability, loss and heartbreak. They go to feel love.

The best in the genre create these emotions subtly. As authentic as any love affair, viewers are not quite sure when they stop mentally assembling the plot and are carried away. Films like Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle and Jerry Maguire magically produce this result.

However, some romantic-comedies heavy handedly throw these sentiments on the screen in a paint-by-number fashion, which is exactly the method employed in Renee Zellweger’s latest release, New In Town. Unlike Jerry Maguire, or even Bridget Jones’s Diary, this film lacks any semblance of chemistry, humor or heart.

Although emotionally ineffectual, the film manufactures a type of realism in the all-too-familiar story of economic hardships and corporate downsizing. A coldhearted Miami executive, Lucy Hill (Renee Zellweger), takes a short-term job in a small-town, New Ulm, Minn., to oversee a new company product and trim expenses. During her welcome dinner, Hill ‘- playing the stereotypical big-city woman ‘- encounters local Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.) in a clash of little-town morality and big-city culture. Of course, Mitchell turns out to be the district union representative. Hate slowly turns into love, while Hill learns the meaning of friendship, loyalty and social responsibility.

The failure of the film is derived less from the visually bland settings, unconvincing comic stunts or predictable characters and events, but stems from the forced nature of the romance. It may be the first romantic-comedy where the audience actually wishes for the couple to stay apart. Zellweger and Connick Jr. struggle to ignite a spark. The film actually feels manufactured, piece by piece. Unfortunately, a part for on-screen compatibility has yet to be found.