Attention Eve! Adam wants his rib back. Here, the sparring duo -- that once might have been played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn -- is essayed by Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore in enjoyably change-of-pace roles. Opening April 30 after some fest dates, decent chick-flick coin should precede many court dates as a vid staple.

Attention Eve! Adam wants his rib back. “Laws of Attraction” plays by the rules sheet so gainfully employed in the battle-of-the-sexes comedy classics of Hollywood’s golden age. Here, the sparring duo — that once might have been played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn — is essayed by Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore in enjoyably change-of-pace roles. While slight comic concoction is so airy it seems in danger of floating right off the screen, the pleasant retro vibe and a handful of effervescent moments carry this film no self-respecting heterosexual male would dare see except on a date. Opening April 30 after some fest dates, decent chick-flick coin should precede many court dates as a vid and tube staple.

Audrey Woods (Moore), a high-profile Manhattan divorce attorney with a penchant for candy corn, believes divorce proceedings don’t have to turn into nasty, name-calling free-for-alls. Daniel Rafferty (Brosnan), an even higher-profile lawyer with an impeccable track record, has a reputation for flying by the seat of his disheveled, roguishly charming pants.

They meet-cute when they find themselves representing opposing spouses in a divorce case. He invites her to dinner; she, thinking she can work the situation to her advantage, accepts. Then, in a moment of weakness, she ends up spending the night with him; the next morning, he shows up in court with case notes written on her missing panties.

Woods and Rafferty continue to square off on a series of headline-grabbing cases, until they find themselves representing their highest profile clients to date: spaced-out rock star Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen) and his tempestuous fashion-designer wife, Serena (Parker Posey). After initially courting Woods to be her advocate, Serena jumps ship and decides to go with Rafferty.

Woods moves in and lands Thorne as her client. Thorne and Serena pretty much agree on who’s entitled to what except, that is, for the sprawling Irish castle they call their home away from home. So, naturally, it’s off to Dublin for our intrepid heroes, where they each plan to depose the Jamisons’ servants in an effort to determine who deserves to keep the estate.

“Laws of Attraction” is a welcome change-of-pace for Hollywood product, runs under 80 minutes not including the lengthy main and end title sequences. Scripted by Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling, “Laws of Attraction” desperately wants to approximate the sustained screwball rhythms of a Lubitsch, Hawks or Wilder farce and only very occasionally comes even close. But the charming chemistry of the leads and the lightness of tone achieved by director Peter Howitt (“Sliding Doors,” “Johnny English”) keeps the whole enterprise afloat.

Liberated from his usual brand of spygame skullduggery, the de-Bonded Brosnan appears wonderfully at ease, while Moore, relieved of the melodramatic burden of her best-known roles, positively sparkles. They’re helped by Frances Fisher as Woods’ conniving, botox-injecting, former-beauty-queen mother. In a brilliant perf, Fisher amps up the entire movie’s energy level whenever she’s on screen. Asked at one point if she’s really 56 years old, she replies, in a Mae West-worthy retort, “Parts of me are.”

Likewise, pic is appropriately polished in the tech department, with Adrian Biddle’s widescreen lensing lending the Manhattan scenes a particularly glossy glow, while composer Edward Shearmur contributes a bouncy, brassy Gershwinesque score that sounds like an ode to skyscrapers and taxicabs.

Pic’s grand total of 17 producers of various types, rivaled only by the “Agent Cody Banks” franchise, suggests that such credits may have been dispensed on the set with all the discernment of crew jackets.

Laws of Attraction

U.K.-Ireland

Production

A New Line Cinema release of a New Line Cinema and Mobius Pictures presentation in association with Stratus Film Co., Intermedia, MHF Zweite Academy Film and Initial Entertainment Group of a Deep River/Irish Dreamtime production. Produced by David T. Friendly, Marc Turtletaub, Beau St. Clair, Julie Durk, David Bergstein. Executive producers, Pierce Brosnan, Basil Iwanyk, Bob Yari, Mark Gordon, Mark Gill, Arthur Lappin, Elie Samaha, Toby Emmerich, Guy Stodel, Oliver Hengst. Co-producer, Paul Myler. Co-executive producer, Andrew Lowe. Directed by Peter Howitt. Screenplay, Aline Brosh McKenna, Robert Harling; story, McKenna.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe London color, widescreen), Adrian Biddle; editor, Tony Lawson; music, Edward Shearmur; production designer, Charles J. H. Wood; art director, Susie Cullen; set decorator, Michael Seirton; costume designer, Joan Bergin; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Kieran Horgan; associate producers, Angelique Higgins, Amanda J. Scarano, Wolfgang Schamburg, Ernst-August Schneider; assistant director, Konrad Jay; casting, John Hubbard, Ros Hubbard; New York casting, Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond. Reviewed at Beverly Connection, Los Angeles, March 20, 2004. (In Newport Beach, Houston, San Francisco film festivals.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Daniel Rafferty - Pierce Brosnan Audrey Woods - Julianne Moore Thorne Jamison - Michael Sheen Serena - Parker Posey Sara Miller - Frances Fisher Judge Abramovitz - Nora Dunn
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