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Favorite Romantic Comedies of a Rom-com Hater
WARNING- I am going to discuss the plots including the ends of You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill, 50 First Dates.
This may seem an obvious article topic for Valentine’s Day, reviewing my favorite romantic comedies. The surprise here is I don’t really like romantic comedies that much. Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino’s movies are among my favorites and I am game for anything Jason Statham is in. I like some chick flicks, my definition of chick flicks is a movie where the central characters are women and the central plot is about the relationships between these women. In the case of chick flicks, men don’t really factor in that much. I guess overall I prefer movies where romance isn’t the central theme-chick flicks and action movies representing the two opposite sides of the spectrum. Romantic comedies are a tough category. How many times can we see two leads fall in love? There are many different scenarios but they’ve all been done before. Also there is such a fine line between romance and utter cheesiness. So with these thoughts taken into considered you can imagine my list of favorite romantic comedies is short- and it is.
1. You’ve Got Mail (1998) - I’ve never actually seen Sleepless in Seattle (see I told you I don’t really like romantic comedies). But I love this re-pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly. I like that the initial attraction comes from the pair conversing online, chatting about the little things in life that make them smile. The supporting roles are superb in this movie- Parker Posey steals every scene she is in and Greg Kinnear is great too. Also Ryan’s bookstore colleagues are an entertaining oddball crew. The movie is an ode to New York City which I really like. The premise is good- the two leads ‘hate’ each other in the professional world while falling for each other online. I appreciate how there is a big focus on their careers, it’s not just about romance. It navigates through Kathleen’s journey of closing her store and trying to figure out what to do next. The soundtrack is wonderful- Harry Nilsson’s version of ‘Over the Rainbow’ at the end, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ and so on. I feel like the music really suits the movie. I could go on and on about this movie, there are so many great lines and memorable scenes.
A favorite exchange
(Kathleen and boyfriend Frank figure out Joe Fox is Kathleen’s professional enemy when they run into him at a party)
Frank to Joe- …Tell me, how do you sleep at night?
(Joe’s girlfriend Patricia walks up, misses the hostility and takes Frank’s question at face value)
Patricia- Ah. I use a wonderful, over the counter drug- ‘Ultradorm.’ Don’t take the whole thing, just half, and you will wake up without the even the tiniest hangover.
2. Notting Hill (1999)- Granted I don’t think William (Hugh Grant) should take Anna (Julia Robert) back in the end, she treats him poorly a number of time throughout the film and shouldn’t get a pass on that just because she is a famous actress. But regardless of that I really like this movie. I love the scene when William finds himself in the middle of the press junket for a sci-fi movie of Anna’s and has absolutely no idea what is going on and isn’t able to cleverly go along with it. I love the supporting characters, the more realistic relationships in the movie, for example William’s best friends- the married couple. An ordinary couple still so in love years after being married and dealing with what life gives them- in their case the wife being newly wheelchair-prone. The husband carries her up the stairs every night so lovingly and insists she not miss the shenanigans in the great final scene when they all rush to get William to Anna’s press conference. I love how William's zany sister and crazy roommate get together and love each other for who they are. Notting Hill also boasts a pretty good soundtrack- Bill Withers’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ Elvis Costello’s ‘She,’ and Al Green’s ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
I absolutely hate the famous exchange ‘I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her…’ makes me gag- but there are some good lines in this film. Many of the good ones are said by or in regards to Grant’s scene-stealing roommate Spike played by Rhys Ifans.
A favorite exchange
William (at the press junket after claiming he worked for the magazine ‘Horse & Hound’) – I enjoyed the movie very much. I was just wondering, did you ever consider having more horses in it?
Anna- Well, we would have liked to. But it was difficult, obviously, being set in space.
3. 50 First Dates (2004) – I love Hawaii and I love the sense of love prevailing in this movie. It’s an interesting premise, having to make someone fall in love with you again every day. I like how Henry (Adam Sandler) learns how being in love changes everything and until you have it you just don’t understand it. Again I like the supporting characters, Lucy’s (Drew Barrymore) father and brother (Sean Astin in a scene-stealing role as a body builder) and although Rob Schneider is always in Sandler flicks, and it seems he always plays a different nationality than his own (which begs the question why not just cast an actor of said nationality) I think he is pretty funny in this. Even if I catch the last five minutes of the movie on TV, I always tear up when Henry goes back to find Lucy and hanging in her art studio are all her paintings and drawing of him even though she doesn’t remember who he is. And I enjoy the final scene where Sandler is still able to pursue his expedition but with his family by his side.
A favorite exchange
Ula (Rob Schneider’s character, overseeing the marriage of Henry and Lucy, in response to Henry saying ‘I do’)- Really? Even though in 10-15 years she could possibly let her herself go and then sex would be like, nauseating, for you?
Henry- What are you nuts? Your wife’s right over there.
Ula- I’m just kidding, Muumuu!
Interestingly, compiling this list makes it clear in order to be a good romantic comedy there are certain criteria that need to be met in order for it to past my test. I particularly enjoy The Holiday and Love, Actually for the same reasons mentioned above but those are Christmas movies and seeing as this is a Valentine’s themed article, I cannot mix holidays (but you can see my thoughts on them in my Christmas movie hub). Overall the saving grace to movies in this genre, for me, is a great supporting cast and making the location an additional character. I appreciate when the individual’s entire life is explained, professional as well as personal. It not only gives the characters more depth but it also shows you can have both. The soundtrack adds to it as well, when you hear a song on the radio and you instantly think of a particular scene of a movie- that’s a good soundtrack.
Sometimes the couple shouldn’t end up together and I appreciate when writers stay true to this. Even though the scene at the end of ‘Notting Hill’ where William and the gang track Anna down at her press conference is great, I don’t think they should end up together in the movie. Several of my favorite movies are among my favorites because the writers have the strength to resist the urge for the happy ending. It makes sense that not every movie end with the couple together because in the real world relationships end- even great ones. That doesn’t take away from the story behind the failed relationships, the love the two people felt while they were together.
Essentials for a Successful Rom-Com
1. Great supporting cast.
2. The location as an additional character.
3. Realistic couples.
4. A great soundtrack.
In the end I ask of my romantic comedies to be somewhat realistic. I enjoy those that show three dimensional characters who have jobs, careers, family, and friends they care about outside of their romantic partner. The story is even better if these careers and people in their lives add to the movie, sometimes for comic effect, sometimes to show a more realistic couple. Also location, location, location- use the setting of the love story as an additional character. And lastly make good use of the soundtrack; it needs to fit in with the overall feel of the story. The You’ve Got Mail soundtrack fits the couple and the feel of the story and I always tear up, at then end, as ‘Over the Rainbow’ starts up when NY152 meets up with Shopgirl in the park.