LAWS OF ATTRACTION

PG-13

-By Daniel Eagan


For movie details, please click here.

Resolutely old-fashioned, Laws of Attraction tries to resurrect romantic comedies from their heyday in the 1940s and '50s. That it succeeds at all is due almost entirely to Julianne Moore, who approaches her role with determined professionalism. Giving the film more heft than it deserves, she is the one reason to see it.

Moore plays Audrey, a high-powered Manhattan divorce attorney with 'issues,' many of them connected to her mother (Frances Fisher), a gorgeous retired model. Wary of males, a devotee of junk food as therapy, Audrey is a killer in the courtroom--until she comes up against the raffish Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan), who's never lost a case.

Egged on by her mother, Audrey meets Rafferty for dinner in a Latin nightclub. Although she claims "there are no psychoanalytical shortcuts into my pants," the combination of alcohol and Rafferty's charm proves irresistible. She winds up sleeping with him, but is heartbroken when he double-crosses her in court the next day.

Rafferty's victory begins a feud that neither lawyer knows how to stop. When fashion designer Serena (Parker Posey) chooses Rafferty for a divorce, Audrey decides to represent her rock-star husband Thorne (Michael Sheen). At stake is the couple's castle in Ireland, prompting a visit there by the attorneys. Over drinks at a village festival, Rafferty works his charm once again. Before the night is over, the enemies are married, thanks to a vague local custom.

Audrey is appalled when she realizes what's happened. But back in New York, she has to pretend to be happily married to avoid bad publicity (insert your own lawyer joke here). Fabricating a happy ending from these events requires more expertise than the filmmakers can muster. Several montages over syrupy pop songs take the place of the nuts-and-bolts scripting this kind of story demands--just as name-calling and jokes about genitalia-flavored drinks substitute for genuinely witty dialogue.

Brosnan, one of the film's executive producers, graciously cedes most of his screen time to Moore. Thanks to the unfocused script, she is alternately resplendent and vulgar, wise and dimwitted, credible and absolutely baffling. Of the rest of the cast, only Fisher makes much of an impression, and that in a role she could play in her sleep. As he did in Sliding Doors, director Peter Howitt shows a facility for reducing an intriguing premise to lowest-common-denominator fodder for network TV. Older viewers yearning for a taste of Adam's Rib may help boost Laws of Attraction's ticket sales. They will find the film's emphasis on talk instead of special effects refreshing. Others will have to be content with Julianne Moore doing everything she can to earn her paycheck.

-Daniel Eagan


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