Brosnan shines in `Laws'

April 30, 2004|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Stumbling over a rival's legal files and stuffing her face with junk food, Julianne Moore succumbs to routine Hollywood caricature of the sexually repressed professional woman in Laws of Attraction. This attempt at a battle-of-the-sexes courtroom romance pits Moore's legendary divorce attorney Audrey Woods against a rumpled, equally unstoppable male divorce attorney, Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan).

The model may be Adam's Rib, but in that entertaining, sophisticated Tracy-Hepburn vehicle, the principals were already married, their strengths and weaknesses well-matched.

In Laws of Attraction, Brosnan's Daniel is always a positive force even when he looks scruffy and acts like a dastard. And when he professes love, he's a heartbreaker. Despite his legal and amorous trickery, he stands for natural feeling. Audrey, though, is a hypocrite, or perhaps just a jerk. She may talk about divorce law as a way to navigate emotional labyrinths. But she denies her own feelings, detests the very idea of marriage, and in her buttoned-up way is every bit as ruthless as her nemesis.

Brosnan comes into his own as Daniel. If only he played James Bond with as much spontaneous savoir-faire! He's so offhand in his erotic manipulations and so low-key about his rapt attention that he makes the insidious seem wholesome. Moore, on the other hand, can't get under Audrey's skin.

Michael Sheen and Parker Posey play a rock star and a fashion-designer wife whose split sends Daniel and Audrey to the couple's castle in Ireland. There the one-upmanship gets so predictable that on the long, winding road to the castle, Audrey has to push her suitcase on foot before Daniel drives up in a car. After a night of frolic at a village festival, they wake up, to their surprise, as husband and wife. Audrey whines. Then, of course, she melts.

Peter Howitt, the director, works as lullingly as a sandman, and the screenwriters, Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling, give Frances Fisher, who plays Audrey's mom, almost all the good lines. When Daniel asks her if she's actually 56, she replies, "Parts of me are," with an unashamed delight that for a moment lifts this failed marital farce into the realm of high comedy.

Laws of Attraction

Starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore

Directed by Peter Howitt

Rated PG-13

Released by New Line Cinema

Time 90 minutes

Sun Score *1/2

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