They Came Together

June 28, 2014

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The romantic comedy is, in many ways, a dead genre.  Well, “dead” is probably too harsh, but it’s certainly dormant, at least on a cultural level from where it once was.  Studios no longer seem interested in attempting to counter-program their tentpole blockbusters, probably because they’re finding franchises that appeal to women as much as men – or should I say, “girls as much as boys”.  This isn’t totally a bad thing, at least in regards to how the rom-com has been used for the past several decades.  There’s something utterly condescending about the studio execs greenlighting moderately budgeted films that they think women will like, whilst making sure they adhere to a very specific set of tropes because that’s what women “want to see”.  It’s not true, and Bridesmaids and The Heat have given them another outlet to grasp for the female dollar, which is fine as far as it goes.  It’s nice that to some degree the executives don’t think all women just want to live out some fantasy about finding “the one”.  Still, the romantic comedy is one of the most intriguing and potentially (though rarely realized) affecting genres in the storied history of film.  Whip-smart dialogue that crackles, solid and interesting and goofy characters just this side of the absurd, and grounding in a basic longing that perversely plays itself out as fantasy – the desire to love and be loved in return is fulfilled, but only in fantastical circumstances that look and feel like something that might be considered reality, but isn’t.  I have a deep love for romantic comedies, and I’m sad to see them so often relegated to rush jobs dumped onto VOD platforms, but I’m not so blinkered that I don’t think the past several decades has meant they’ve sort of earned it. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a relatively tedious, though not unfounded at all, cliché about Hollywood making market-tested films that appeal to x demographic by including x types of characters embodied by beautiful stars and putting them in romantic/funny/exciting/all three situations and BOOM:  Instahit.  It’s generally a lot more complicated than that, as there’s bound to be someone along the creative line who has a whiff of the artist about them, or at the very least actors who know how to work a script in their favour, and a director or an editor who can nurture that into something vaguely entertaining.  I don’t know know anything at all about the development or the production of McG’s This Means War, but if there ever was a film that played right into that cliché about clueless moneymen suits at the studio putting an entire movie together and creating exactly what they think a “successful” (not “good”, mind) product would be, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

 

Teen rom-coms have a built-in fantasy that serves them well in a way their adult counterparts have difficulty in addressing.  They are more likely to deal with the seeming temporary nature of whatever notion of “true love” the main characters find, either directly (all those conversations about “what are we going to do next year”) or indirectly (the audience knows this is a childish lark, but that instills in it a certain innocence – I’d argue that in some ways it’s the lack of a future that gives the genre its power).  This is partially why screenwriters tend to skip the college years and move onto the lonely, Type A personality workaholic female looking for love.  Her life is figured out, so the movie need only concern itself with slotting that one piece of the puzzle into place to get the “Happily Ever After”.  This is all broadly speaking, and I can think of several counter-examples that might be worth examining further, but on a whole, I think there is truth to it, and it is necessary to understand this when approaching the really good aspects of The Five-Year Engagement.    Read the rest of this entry »

Easy

January 21, 2012

If Jane Weinstock’s 2003 romantic comedy Easy had been made for a Hollywood studio, with attendant bigger budget and presumably bigger stars, I probably would have praised it as a noble failure.  Sure, it is not a good film, but in those circumstances, it would certainly be trying to do something interesting in that blandest and most uninspired of genres.  Unfortunately, Easy is a low-budget indie that should understand the trade-off between having no budget is having no market expectations, freeing the filmmaker to break the mold of the everyday genre fare and explore the possibilities it offers in elucidating the travails of romance in modern society.  The fact that it was written and directed by a woman, something that still happens all-to-rarely, only makes it worse.  Read the rest of this entry »

How Do You Know

December 21, 2010

Perhaps it is unfair to expect more from James L. Brooks.  His romantic comedies have generally been delightful but they are often far from transcending the genre.  They elevate themselves primarily by being wittier and sometimes cleverer than the norm, but they’re hardly great, indispensable films.  I have a certain affection for As Good As It Gets and while I didn’t care for it at the time, Kent Jones’ writing has convinced me that Spanglish might be worth another look (Tea Leoni’s mad performance stood out even then, and is perhaps worth reconsidering).  How Do You Know is slight, meandering, a little too long, vaguely enjoyable and only very occasionally “funny”.  It is an “adult” rom-com only when you compare it to every other mainstream rom-com released in recent years, and that is a sobering thought that those even those of us who love easy entertainments might find hard to swallow. Read the rest of this entry »

Predators and Killers

July 15, 2010

John McTiernan’s tight, sparse and commendably pure Predator still stands as one of the finer action achievements of the 1980s, and though it has been sullied by a grim sequel borne out of the Jason Takes Manhattan mode and a pair of cinematic abortions that shall not be mentioned by title here, the simple concept still has allure.  For those living under a rock, it is basically a sci-fi Most Dangerous Game, with honour-bound but ruthless dreadlocked aliens hunting humanity’s finest killers.  While the original was happy for our heroes to tangle with a singular beast, Nimrod Antal’s Predators takes a cue from the Alien franchise by pluralizing both the title as well as the number of predators. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rom-coms that centre around adult women tend to be about unbelievably gorgeous career woman who just haven’t found the right man, and that right man is almost always a well-built, clever, and extremely handsome man.  He probably lacks a heart-on-his-sleeve sensitive side, but the woman need only scratch beyond the bickering and the brusque exterior to find it.  Perhaps this is true of teen movies that centre around girls as well.  After all, Molly Ringwald ends up with Jake and Blane, not the Geek or Duckie.  In whatever circumstance (yes, Ringwald was the outsider in both those films), you rarely see a film in the genre where the athlete is the star.  Oh, there are exceptions, but even in She’s All That, it’s Rachel Leigh Cook that goes on a journey, not Freddie Prinze Jr.  So perhaps the makeshift rule that should be completely disregarded after reading is that if a film is targeted at women, the guy can be hunky and awesome, but targeted at men, the guy will often be an awkward outsider, maybe even a loser (the exception here is Say Anything, in which Lloyd Dobler is much-beloved, an athlete, but still sensitive and culturally savvy enough to be considered outside the ‘conformist mainstream’, if that’s what it is).  I suspect, to go further and narrower, this happens a lot in films about teens/young adults because the (typically) male director was himself a sensitive, artistic sort, and their own nostalgia might be wrapped up in the story enough to the point that they identify with the underdog protagonist.  The boys in these stories, through disconnection with the mainstream popular kids and through a lack of experience with the opposite sex, have a tendency to construct idealized notions of women, and in many cases, a particular one.  The three films herein discussed all deal with boys who do just that to varying degrees of success. Read the rest of this entry »