Every so often, a movie comes along that offers so much of so little that you're left wondering why anyone bothered writing it, much less financing it, casting it and releasing it. You know the type: a movie in which the outcome is revealed in the poster, rendering the movie itself a mere formality. Nothing about Laws of Attraction is remotely original; even its title has the dull ring of the generic, like Opposites Attract or He Said, She Said.
Yes, yes -- romantic comedies are by their nature formulaic. They haven't been a novelty since Clark Gable. But this one is hardly romantic, and it's scarcely a comedy. The paucity of wit gives it away, but so does the absence of sparks. Sitting there watching A give way to B and B give way to C, you'll be so far ahead of the story that you'll be tucked in bed before the second act.
Director Peter Howitt, good with Sliding Doors but very bad with Johnny English, manages to waste a cast that could transform tripe into a five-course meal. Seeing Pierce Brosnan all tousled and disheveled made me want to marry him; you have to possess some kind of otherworldly charm to survive as many direct-to-airplane movies as he did before landing the role of Bond-James-Bond. But he's stuck with a moribund role in Daniel Rafferty, the smarter-than-he-looks divorce lawyer who believes his clients are cowards who won't fight through the rough patches. He's a paragon, without flaw or foible. You wish he were more like George Clooney in the Coen brothers' darker, dirtier Intolerable Cruelty, that he had a little meanness beneath the shiny grin.
Julianne Moore is seldom bad, even when she's been miscast (Assassins, opposite Sly Stallone), mistreated (The Lost World) or misled (Nine Months, another movie so baldly formulaic that it's on the periodic table under Sht). But she's never looked less comfortable than she does playing Audrey Woods, one of those doggedly single women who appear in movies about doggedly single women who refuse to accept romance and love and marriage and blahblahblah. She's given nothing but an archetype and asked to fill in the blanks, which she does with more blanks.
But most disquieting is the casting of Frances Fisher as Moore's mother, Sara, a punk-rock-and-leather-pants fetishist constantly sporting post-plastic-surgery bruised eyes. Fisher is a mere eight years older than Moore and looks almost the same age; God knows what it's supposed to suggest about these women that one refuses to fall in love and the other apparently had a child while in elementary school. The flaws of distraction, let's say.