So, I am approaching my 47th birthday, and as 47 is my favorite number, I wanted to do a few things on this blog this year to celebrate. Earlier, I did a 47 day run of blogging on Doctor Who. Today, I begin a 47 post series about movies! I don’t promise these will be 47 consecutive days – Real Life is busy and will soon involve some traveling (Movies on a Plane!), but the idea is that I’m going to try to get 47 of them in before I turn 47, on the 7th of June.
What I’ve done is made up a big list of suggestions and passed them on to my friend Jo. She’s added her own suggestions and then she throws one of them back at me. Once I write it up, she’ll send another one and will keep them coming until I tell her to stop.
Today is Post #1 and the topic, as decide by Jo is “Four Genuinely Successful Romatic Comedies”
So, we’ll obviously have to define what I mean by “Genuinely Successful”. And the answer is a movie in which is truly both romantic and funny, where I am led to be invested in the romance and also to find the film truly funny.
It’s not always easy to do both. For example, His Girl Friday is riotously funny, but it doesn’t really make me care too much about the romance angle. On the other hand, I was pretty connected in with the relationship in The Giant Mechanical Man, but I wouldn’t say it was especially funny (nor was it trying to be).
Anyway, here are four thoughts:
Emma (1996) – Directed by Douglas McGrath
This adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel about a would-be Cupid whose arrows always misfire is a favorite of mine, and it’s pretty much for the reasons that I’m bringing it up here. It’s a genuinely funny piece of work – albeit a comedy of manners and not the sort of romantic farce that we often think of for this category. But it’s also a touching romance. Emma and Knightly have a believable and engaging relationship and Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam have great chemistry. They are backed up by a really fun supporting cast, including Toni Collette, Alan Cumming, Ewan McGregor and especially Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates. It’s all a bit more “Hollywood” than many Jane Austen adaptations, but no less enjoyable for it.
Hitch (2005) – Directed by Andy Tennant
Hitch is my favorite “modern” romantic comedy. Will Smith stars as the titular character, a specialist who helps people to get noticed by those they are attracted to. It’s built largely on Smith’s charisma, but there’s plenty of that to go around. The movie is a mix of engaging character moments and hilarious absurdity (like when Hitch accidentally kicks his date off of a jet-ski), and it draws us strongly into its relationships and themes. I certainly like the dynamic between Hitch and the gossip columnist who catches him off his guard (played by Eva Mendes), but I’m even more invested in whether or not his nervous client will win the attentions of the woman of his dreams, an heiress and debutante.
Forget Paris (1995) – Directed by Billy Crystal
Every good film of any genre is going to include some sort of twist, something that separates it out from all of the other examples of the style of story. In the case of Forget Paris, the unique element is the fact that standard “romantic comedy” story–the story of how a couple ultimately gets together–is complete by the end of the first act of the movie. The rest of it is about how that couple stays together. It’s a great take on things, and creates a strong connection with both of our leads, played by Debra Winger and Billy Crystal. It’s also extremely funny, with some genuinely hilarious situations and enjoyable supporting performances by their group of friends, played by an impressive ensemble of character actors including John Spencer, Richard Masur and Joe Mantegna.
Notting Hill (1999) – Directed by Roger Michell
This is the weakest movie of my four but it beats out other better ones because for the most part it does fulfill both of today’s criteria. The movie delivers on the laughs, thanks largely to the protagonist’s kooky friends, played by another group of talented actors (except this time they’re British). But I’m also fully invested into the charming romance between the awkward English book seller Will Thacker and American superstar Anna Scott. The movie suffers a bit from what I could call the Hugh Grant Problem, which is not surprising since Hugh Grant is the star. That’s where you have a male lead who comes across as some sort of romantic ideal mainly because he is so compliant that he will completely bend around his life and personality in order to win his beloved (see My Big Fat Greek Wedding for one of the worst examples of this), but it’s got enough other charms to make up for it.
And that’s that! Four Genuinely Successful Romantic Comedies, in that they are both funny and romantic. One down, 46 to go. What’s it going to be, Jo?
Considered & Rejected: Too many to count, but it included Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss, While You Were Sleeping…all for not being funny enough. Return to Me is kind of funny and kind of romantic, but not memorable on either front to get on here. Other classics like The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Some Like It Hot, or Seven Chances are even the more recent When Harry Met Sally are hilarious, but don’t make me truly care about whether love is fulfilled or not.
I found this category hard because there were a number of films that I love but which don’t seem to quite fit as romantic comedies, even they are both romantic and funny. That includes more dramatic fare like The Giant Mechanical Man which I mentioned earlier, or The Apartment.
On the other hand, there are a number of “classic” examples that I just don’t like all that much, like Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Full Disclosure: While I’m sure there are piles of romantic comedies I have not seen, just at the moment I can’t think of any important ones. There are also lots of other examples that I have seen but just don’t remember very well. This would include older films like The Philadelphia Story or The Awful Truth, or even less old fare such as You’ve Got Mail.