Romantic Comedies: What Has Happened?

Today I want to deviate from my usual blogs and write about something that is very dear to my heart: films. As some of you know I has just finished a film degree (don’t worry, I’m not about to wax lyrical about black and white films with subtitles) and it has made me see film in a completely different way to how I viewed it four years ago. But the sad thing is that I think film has really lost something as of late. However, I more specifically would like to look at romantic comedies.

My favourite rom/com is Serendipity:

Cusack and Beckinsale are brilliant, hilarious and quirky throughout the film. They embody perfectly the true leading lady/leading man characters and are wonderfully likeable. It’s a beautifully believable story in which their best friends support their dreams and join in the chase with them. We know this couple is perfect for each other and, as crazy as the story seems, we want them to get together and we know they will. It is innocent and kind; it is a true romantic comedy.

My second favourite is probably ‘You’ve Got Mail’, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan:

This film captured the beginning of the digital age, it made internet dating normal and innocent and wasn’t all about porn and sex. There was no sharing of raunchy photos or looking at body parts over Skype. It’s a hilarious tale of two people who on line, love each other but, in real life, hate each other. But we still root for this couple, we know they’re perfect, we know their love of books will bring them together, even if their businesses are what could tear them apart.

However, I grew up watching films older than this, and this Doris Day classic was another one of my favourites; By the Light of the Silvery Moon:

The sheer simplicity of films during the Golden Age of Hollywood is something that will never be able to be repeated. People don’t want to see families who live in houses surrounded by white picket fences, with rose bushes in the front garden and trees on the avenue, couples who go to balls and ex-soldiers who sing about “just one girl”, they don’t want to see grown women still living with their parents and “courting” their boyfriend. Sadly, they want city slickers, independent women, and men who make bad jokes. There was something truly beautiful about this age of Hollywood.

Lastly, I certainly couldn’t forget Meet Me in St. Louis:

I’m convinced that Judy Garland is one main reason as to why I love to sing so much. A true classic from MGM, Garland plays Esther Smith, the girl in love with the boy next door, John Truett. This film depicts to us middle-class life in 1900s St. Louis, Missouri, during preparations for the 1904 World’s Fair. We get a special look into the trials and tribulations of the Smith family, including the antics of Tootie, the youngest daughter.

The great thing about the older films is that they don’t just focus on the couple, but they greatly cover the lives of the people surrounding them; in a way this is more realistic and gives the films far more depth than a lot of the rubbish plastered across the silver screen these days.

I won’t lie, there are a few romantic comedies that have been released in recent years that have made me laugh out loud and shed a few tears (The Holiday, Love Actually, The Proposal…), but nothing beats the romantic comedies of times gone by (even if those times were only ten years ago). I think the problem now is that all Hollywood does is rehash old ideas, and there’s not much about rom/coms now that is actually very funny. I think Hollywood knows they will make money out of whatever they do, so they might as well forget about making a true piece of artwork because the majority of people will go to the cinema regardless; we’ve stopped demanding good quality entertainment and will empty our pockets for anything that seems mildly appealing.

I also think there’s far too much a focus on sex. Now, some of you will say “typical Christian”, but I really don’t think that’s relevant or fair. Last night I saw The Five Year Engagement. I left the cinema feeling like I’d wasted my time and my money. It wasn’t very original and there wasn’t all that much about it that was funny, but there were constantly references to masturbation and sex and scenes where the couples were actually having sex. I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I saw Serendipity and You’ve Got Mail, but I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t mind letting a twelve year old watch either of those films. But the one I saw last night? Definitely not. We have two extremes here you see: there’s either the unattainable Disney-esque ideal that says all your dreams will come true, or the 21st Century rom/com that tells you a relationship can’t work without sex. Where on earth is the middle ground? I’d also like to include that both main characters in the film last night cheated on each other but then things worked out fine in the end; is this the norm now? That you can cheat on your partner and it’ll all work out fine?

I think that film makers of old would be turning in their graves.

However, I will continue on my search to find good romantic comedies in the 21st Century, because if the three I briefly mentioned above are anything to go by, I truly believe that Hollywood can get past these barriers of too much sex and bad jokes and make something really good again. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

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