Fools Rush In

(Andy Tennant, USA, 1997)


Some people decry the great old Hollywood movies for their fulsome use cultural stereotypes, but you have to credit those films with some intelligence: even while the characters were associated with many traits of race, class, age, gender and so on, their essential humanity was never entirely defined by these attributes.

Not so with the new romantic comedy Fools Rush In. The political hysteria around multiculturalism has had a strange effect on American popular movies: these days, ethnic and indigenous cultures are treated not with contempt or mistrust, but with a smothering, fetishising excess of celebration.

And so Isabel (Salma Hayek) is Mexico incarnate: every detail of how she talks, dances, eats, prays, dresses and emotes is offered as the quintessence of Mexicanness. In this familiar tale of the rocky road to true love, Isabel’s unlikely soul mate is, of course, WASP America personified: Alex (Matthew Perry from TV’s Friends), a smarmy, rootless New Yorker.

This romance has a modern twist. The relationship between Isabel and Alex begins as a drunken one-nighter and then becomes complicated when, months later, Isabel realises she is pregnant and decides to have the child. The couple agree to marry, but there are many cultural differences to work out: her gregarious commitment to family versus his scant regard for his parents; her love of Las Vegas versus his career opportunities back in the Big Apple.

As comedies of manners go, we are a long way from Adam’s Rib (1949) or Teacher’s Pet (1958). So many of the key details, designed to be touching, are merely risible: his adoration of hot-dogs, and her show-stopping way of dancing around the kitchen while preparing breakfast, are typical howlers.

Yet, for all its laboriousness, Fools Rush In has some nice comedic touches that almost save it. Perry’s frazzled reactions are a joy to behold, and Jill Clayburgh (as Alex’s tipsy mother) gives a splendidly barbed cameo.

MORE Tennant: Anna and the King, It Takes Two, Sweet Home Alabama

© Adrian Martin July 1997

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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