The statutes of contemporary sexual politics regarding Hollywood romantic comedies are strictly applied in the by-the-book, pseudo-screwball throwaway Laws of Attraction. Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore) is a gleaming, glossy, tucked-in divorce attorney who needs to get, in the movie’s wan euphemism…dated. Pro-alimony but against marriage for herself, Moore makes Audrey so sleek, fearsomely successful, and well organized that even when she gobbles junk food (with product placement including, but not limited to, Sno Balls, Cheetos, and Pepsi One), she appears to be doing Pilates at the same time.
Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) is a rule-bending, shirttails-out, equally successful divorce lawyer who expresses his iconoclasm in his choice of an anti-chic, Chinatown office address. Although he knocks back mean drinks, including one called the Balls of a Goat, at a local Latin dive, Daniel appears to carry an emergency cummerbund in his back pocket.
The two are made for each other, of course. Or at least we must buy the premise that they are because, first of all, Moore and Brosnan are stars, brand names, stretching their comedic muscles (in a Pilates kind of way) as a break from Moore’s tremulous tragic heroines and Brosnan’s chain-link bond to Bond. And second of all, when the couple does end up on opposite sides of a rock-star divorce case, with each lawyer traveling to Ireland to research a castle under property dispute, the notion that the two might ”accidentally” wed during a night of wild Irish blarney is meant to feel like an inevitability.
Married lawyers on opposite sides of a case? Your Honor, the people call Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in the untoppable 1949 George Cukor confection ”Adam’s Rib.” ”Attraction” has none of Hepburn-Tracy’s sophistication and buoyancy, but it does have lots of mapped-out turns, strung together by director Peter Howitt (”Sliding Doors”) from a script by Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling. With Audrey’s messy needs reduced to a fondness for non-Atkins snacks, all other imperfections are palmed off on her far lustier mother, Sara (Frances Fisher, a translucent-skinned hoot), an Ab Fab-oriented middle-aged woman meant to be a joke. ”Are you really 56?” she’s rudely (or is it flirtatiously?) asked by the man who would be her son-in-law. ”Parts of me are,” she replies, a model of savage appetites far more interesting (and youthful) than her daughter.
”Laws of Attraction” operates on such outdated, unimaginative conventions of movie chemistry that Moore and Brosnan end up appearing older and stodgier than necessary. If Daniel (and this movie) were smarter, he’d run off with the swinging mom — a much hipper and timelier verdict.