I LOVE TROUBLE is a bumpy, uneven reprise of the old-fashioned Hollywood newspaper comedy. Although Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte are a surprisingly winning team, the filmmakers don't approach their material with the kind of hip revisionism that sometimes enlivens genre revivals, settling instead for an awkward retread of much superior models. In contemporary...read more
I LOVE TROUBLE is a bumpy, uneven reprise of the old-fashioned Hollywood newspaper comedy. Although Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte are a surprisingly winning team, the filmmakers don't approach their material with the kind of hip revisionism that sometimes enlivens genre revivals, settling
instead for an awkward retread of much superior models.
In contemporary Chicago, Peter Brackett (Nick Nolte), a star reporter for the Chronicle, gets his first taste of competition when Sabrina Peterson (Julia Roberts), a cub reporter for the rival Globe, scoops him on a major story about a bomb that caused a train derailment. After several prickly
confrontations during internecine competition to dig up further information, they agree to share their sources. They discover that the bomb was planted on a science teacher who was privy to the facts about a new genetically-engineered hormone for dairy cows. Meanwhile, the mismatched pair fall in
After infiltrating a chemical company, Sabrina and Peter learn that the hormone caused cancer in lab animals; their source and friend, senatorial aide Sam Smotherman (Saul Rubinek), was instrumental in getting FDA approval for the hormone. During a fight in the chemical plant laboratory, Sabrina
shoots Sam, and the case is solved. Sabrina and Peter's honeymoon is interrupted by a new story that demands investigation.
I LOVE TROUBLE's failure at the 1994 summer box-office may have had more to do with an inept advertising campaign than with the film itself--Touchstone apparently couldn't decide whether to market the film as action or romance. In parts, the film's disparate elements work well together. Humor
and suspense are nicely commingled, for example, in the scene where the protagonists are forced to marry in a Las Vegas wedding chapel in order to elude a dangerous thug. Nolte and Roberts work well together, too, despite negative critical reaction to the pairing (he was considered too old for
her). Their exchanges are sharply delivered--the stars' heavily reported fighting on the set may have enhanced the tension--and occasionally witty. When Peter sarcastically praises Sabrina's "Academy Award caliber" performance in one mock-sentimental scene, for example, the film sends up Julia
Roberts' star image while also spoofing her earnest work in the 1993 hit thriller, THE PELICAN BRIEF.
What is wrong with I LOVE TROUBLE is that most of its material is neither as funny nor as pointed as the classic dialogue it strives to emulate (see, e.g., HIS GIRL FRIDAY, THE THIN MAN--one character here is even called "The Thin Man"). Worse, there's no apparent attempt to depart from or
comment on the conventions of the genre; as a result, I LOVE TROUBLE invites direct comparison with movies it can't hope to match in wit, invention, or star power. The direction is often either underdeveloped (the awkwardly staged climax) or painfully obvious (the scene with several boy scouts
stumbling upon the nude Sabrina in the woods). The film also wastes some talented performers (Marsha Mason, Olympia Dukakis, Nora Dunn) in throwaway or cut-down parts. The blame lies with Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, the writing-producing-directing team who also created a lukewarm 1991 remake
of FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Apparently, Shyer and Meyers have yet to realize that contemporary variations on classic Hollywood genres need to be re-imagined, not just recycled. (Adult situations, profanity.)
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