Earlier this month, Mindy Kaling (The Office, No Strings Attached), wrote a gigglish (yes, I know this is not a word! It’s made up! I like it! Let’s make it happen!) and astute piece for the New Yorker, Flick Chicks, that rips on the stereotypes in romantic comedies that we still all watch in secret…and secretly love. (On a side note, Mindy also has a new book coming out, Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?, and an even more gigglish (still into it?) blog The Concerns of Mindy Kaling. Funny!)
Mindy Kaling is awesome. But enough about her. Her piece got me thinking about the romantic comedies of our generation. IE, not Casablanca, Some Like it Hot, etc. What’s great about the modern day rom com? It keeps it real. There aren’t always happy endings, and when there are, the course of true love does not run smooth. Our films are defined often by the bittersweet, and at least a lot of sour with the sweet. I’m not talking about The Notebook, Dear John/George/Chris (whatever), or anything from the saccharin Nicholas Sparks cough up a pink hairball in my mouth collection.
To explain what I am talking about, I will use the metaphor of an excellent, and not frequently enough made, movie time snack: the s’more. Not just for camping people! Personally, I don’t like marshmallows. But they work in a s’more, because of the emphasis on the chocolate and the graham, the same way fluff works in a rom com. It’s an undertone. The good ones are smart, honest, with just a touch of fluff. And the ultimate test: even boys like them (in secret). Below is the case study. Get ready to update your netflix, and yes, your boyfriend will get all “I don’t want to watch that,” and you might have to barter and agree to watch one of the Transformer movies, but ultimately he’ll really be happy he saw it.
Because every good list needs a framework. These are the rom coms that I think defined the “smart and your boyfriend will like it even if it’s a secret between you two” genre, and are my personal favorites.
- When Harry Met Sally. There’s just no getting around it. It’s perfect. It even makes you want to befriend someone who looks like Billy Crystal. It precedes Meg Ryan using botox like it’s a Neutrogena make-up wipe (also see Innerspace), and sums up the differences between men and women perfectly. “Your problem is somewhere between 30-seconds and all night.” Fact.
- Blind Date. You are aware from Ex-pectations that I love Bruce Willis. So Bruce Willis with hair! Kim Basinger before she went all grown-woman interrupted! This movie is still funny, sweet, and gawd just makes you want to jump into a pool in a wedding dress.
- Overboard. Goldie Hawn before she only wore sunglasses! Another great set of bangs! Kurt Russell goo-goo ga-ga. And gawd it just makes you want to jump into the ocean in a ball gown.
- Tootsie. Not only a great rom com, but one of my all time favorite movies.
- The John Cusack archive. Let’s just leave it at that.
THE NEW GENERATION.
1. 500 Days of Summer
Yes, if you have been following my posts, you know I love this movie, you know I love Zooey Deschanel and her perfectly wafted hair and bangs that never seem to grow too long. (Side thought: are we seeing a hair pattern? Meg Ryan, bangs in When Harry Met Sally. Kim Basinger, bangs in Blind Date. Goldie Hawn, bangs in Overboard. This might be my new criteria for whether or not I see a rom com.) But it’s a really good movie, y’all! It’s like the kitchen sink of every failed relationship you’ve ever had.
Ewan McGregor gets brave in love and takes his chances, falling for approachably prestine Melanie Laurent, as his father sets the example: he bravely comes out of the closet after being diagnosed with cancer.
Once breaks your heart when the two leads help one another heal and fall in love, but oops, she’s married and it just can’t happen. But that’s okay, because the two actors, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, are married in real life! And they had a golden Oscar baby together! Love conquers all! Well, faster than Cher can shout “Snap out of it!” we get this year’s, The Swell Season. A documentary about how the couple navigated the sudden wave of fame following Once, and ultimately divorced. This Irishman and Czech broke my heart again like a soggy strudel.
4. Definitely, Maybe.
A good example of the right amount of fluff. This couple knew each other a long time before they got together because timing didn’t work out/”shit was a mess”/etc. And ideals were lost and some categorized as disillusionment. Reynolds is divorced with a kid. Which as we get older, is a lot of people’s reality. (Side thought: don’t you just love seeing Kevin Kline pop out of the woodwork? Props to No Strings Attached on this note. And we come back to Mindy Kaling. Love you!)
5. Music and Lyrics.
Okay. This is as fluffy as it will get. I did NOT want to feature Drew Barrymore on this list. The sound of her voice in my head right now, the Charlie’s Angel’s tv series, and that whale movie coming out are already making me regret this. But this movie is good. She’s tolerable. And it opens with the best of Hugh Grant. I still do the dance moves from Pop Goes My Heart, and I wish it were a real song. I also just generally enjoy seeing cast members of Friday Night Lights outside of Dylan, TX (Minka Kelly in Charlie’s Angels not withstanding. But nice cameo in 500 Days).
6. Someone Like You.
We are slowly easing our way out of fluff zone, but I promise, the only thing making this movie fluff-like is a pastel color palette and Ashley Judd cheerleading in underwear (Not necessary. But it will help with the above said boyfriend watching with you scenario). She goes through a pretty brutal breakup, with the residual damage of the dude (Greg Kinnear) telling her a week before they were supposed to move in together that he will make a movie about windshield wipers before that happens. Which in NYC, is NOT okay! Finding an apartment is a brutal, excruciating process! And it brings us back to my gem of an ex moving out without telling me and leaving the 19″ kitchen tv on the floor with the cable set up (he so thoughtfully knew I needed to watch my Mindy Kaling on Thursdays). I won’t reveal any spoilers, but a couple times while watching this movie, I was all, “Ugh ugh, girl. That ain’t right.” But Ashley Judd and her cute haircut that, in my opinion, Meg Ryan could not pull off previal.
7. Two Days in Paris
A struggling, adorable in their own way couple, visits Paris to the home of Delpy’s parents, and ex-boyfriends. A lot of them. Rent it. Now. Pause the reading. Add to netflix queue. Thank you.
I like how we see a man going a bit wack-a-doo and crying a lot after a break up. Because we do this for a few months, and get all the crazy out of our system. Too often men bottle down and never deal with their post-relationship issues, and it becomes an actual complex that rather than being a phase, grows into a part of their character. Also, there are puppets.
9. Happy Thank You More Please
This didn’t get the greatest of reviews, and isn’t really a rom-com as much as a rom-dram. Truth is, it’s a disjointed movie, which is too bad considering the intelligent and interesting cast. But, it stuck with me. Its intersecting stories are sometimes simple, but have a resonance and a message behind them. Whether or not that message is real to life is another thing, but it does represent what we should strive to be.
10. Like Crazy
It hasn’t been released yet, but word on the street on this Sundance winner is get to the theatre and don’t wear mascara. I thought it would be nice to include a future hopeful.