First, two key ideas I think we agree on:
- Love is the greatest thing ever. I think we all agree on that? Loving someone while they love you back is one of the most intense, joy-filled, and empowering experiences out there for us humans…. Also,
- Laughing is fun. Right!? Laughing is FUN.
So in theory, combining these two ideas should be a winning combo for movie magic 100% of time. Sadly, not the case. Too many moviemakers substitute pretty faces, fart jokes, and shallow character stereotypes (the career-obsessed ice queen, the sex-obsessed commitment-phobe, blah blah blah) for human characters, real-life conflicts, and simple, smart humor. And although I occasionally want to turn off my brain and drift away with the lighthearted, vapid fare of How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, I always prefer to leave my brain on. It’s always better with your brain on.
Thankfully, there are renegade romantic comedies out there that successfully marry substance and silliness – and these are the ones that really stick with us. Five of my favorites:
When Harry Met Sally…
In my early 20’s, I watched this movie whenever I couldn’t sleep – it is like comfort food for frazzled nerves and broken hearts. The tinkling Harry Connick Jr. piano soundtrack, the deli orgasm (“I’ll have what she’s having”), the charming love stories from the elderly couples, the real warmth of the friendship Harry and Sally build… and that SPEECH. That SPEECH Billy Crystal gives at the New Year’s party is just the best. Even though some of the language feels dated (ex: referring to people as “attractive” or “not attractive” – was that an 80’s thing?) and I know exactly what’s going to happen at the end, it’s still entrancing. Nora Ephron, man – don’t mess with it.
This movie is smart! The premise is so creative and fun, Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell are both great, and the deeper you get into this, the more heady and surreal it gets. Why is this happening (still a mystery)? What would you do if you were stuck in a loop? And what is it going to take for Bill Murray to get it right? He’s tried everything! Of course, the answer is love. Duh.
Bridget Jones’ Diary
Bridget is so adorably ridiculous. She makes every wrong choice, has an unnatural affinity for alternately saying the wrong thing and humiliating herself, she drinks and smokes too much, struggles with her body image, and is brave and honest and wonderful. Also – this might be old news to most everyone in the world – but the last time I watched this movie, I realized that it’s a loose adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. (Mark Darcy = Mr. Darcy!) Blew my mind.
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Remember Julia Roberts’ huge-ass cellphone in this movie? I swear that thing comes with a backpack. It’s almost as big as her hair. I love this movie because Julia is so obviously going psycho. She is mean and manipulative and malicious – she does terrible things! Some serious, life-ruining shit. And even though you can see her doing these despicable things, you empathize with her fear and her soft, wounded heart. She doesn’t get the guy in the end, which is the right way for the story to end and also, sometimes how life is… But Rupert Everett ties up the whole disaster in a perfect final line: “Maybe there won’t be marriage, maybe there won’t be sex, but by God – there will be dancing.”
Did you know that Michael Showalter – one of the creative forces behind The State, Wet Hot American Summer, Stella Comedy, The Ten, etc. – made a romantic comedy? Not surprisingly, it’s great. Written, directed, and starring Showalter (aka Coop) in the spirit of a Howard Hawks classic, this is the story of the safe guy, the wrong guy – that the girl leaves at the end of the story for the one she was meant to be with the whole time. Michael Showalter is clueless, nervous, well-intentioned, and scared. Michelle Williams is radiant, Justin Theroux delivers possibly his best performance as the super-confident yet sensitive dude that everyone loves (who is also trying to steal your girlfriend). Elizabeth Banks is doing her thing, Michael Ian Black wears ladies’ tank tops, Paul Rudd contributes a few hilarious moments – even Peter Dinklage makes a cameo. See this one if you haven’t yet – it’s lovely.
So, what did I miss? Leave your favorite RomComs in the comments…
– betsy midnight