Where have all the smart romcoms gone?
I was talking about love to a young woman recently. She is only 20 years old and is entering the dating world for the first time. Not knowing what to expect, but hoping to find some great romance, her experience so far has been a disappointment – more Glenroe than Normal People. “I would just like to meet someone in a cafe,” she said wistfully, “in Dublin, maybe, while I read my book and he reads his book.”
It sounded like the start of a romantic comedy and reminded me of a line from the movie Sleepless in Seattle where Rosie O’Donnell said to Meg Ryan’s desperate romantic, “That’s your problem. You don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.
Romantic comedies were on my mind recently when I stumbled upon another Nora Ephron classic on TV and it made me wonder, where have all the clever romantic comedies gone?
Romantic comedies have long had a bad reputation for being sweet and unrealistic, but these are just the bad ones. The vouchers can completely alter your mood, which is why when you find one you can watch it over and over and over again. They are a strong pick-me-up. If I’m having a bad day I’ll watch something like Tootsie or Annie Hall or Notting Hill and my mood will magically change. To put this in context, as I was recovering from eye surgery and couldn’t watch TV, I decided to listen to my favorite romantic comedies instead. I knew the films so well that I could visualize every scene while listening to them and they comforted me immensely during a miserable time.
At the time, I was also recovering from a breakup. In fact, the eye surgery was directly related to the rupture. In that irrational low point that comes immediately after a breakup, the period when women usually get misguided haircuts, Dorothy Parker’s aphorism “men rarely make advances to girls who wear glasses” ricocheted around. my head. So I zapped my eyes in hopes of increasing my future chances of finding love.
Bandaged and sedated, I fell asleep to the heartwarming accents of You’ve Got Mail. Sixteen hours later, I woke up. There had been a power cut and my cat, trapped in the house for the duration, had deposited an unmentionable gift. It was like a less adorable version of While You Were Sleeping.
If my life was a movie, this would have been the moment when the heroine’s fortunes improved. But because it was real life, I let the cat out and fumbled around until the electricity came back on.
While movie studios gradually stopped making romantic comedies in the 2000s, viewers never stopped watching them.
The romcoms just seem to vibrate a different body part in the operation game which is my cultural enjoyment zone. I’m aware that romantic comedies aren’t necessarily the highest art form, but they can be if you – like me – consider Pedro Almodóvar and Richard Linklater to be among the best purveyors of the genre.
But why is it so hard to find a good one these days? Are romantic comedies (and by extension those who love them) simply outdated dinosaurs representative of a bygone era? Or maybe, like in love, there are only dry spells, and the perfect romantic comedy rarely happens.
While movie studios gradually stopped making romantic comedies in the 2000s, viewers never stopped watching them. When Netflix researched what kind of movies they should be developing for their in-house film stable, they found viewers were watching things like The Holidays and My Best Friend’s Wedding over and over again, which made them feel like they were right. encouraged to restart the genre.
The closest thing I’ve found to a modern Nora Ephron experience is Amazon’s adaptation of Modern Love, the cult New York Times series that tells readers’ real love stories. He just has the right combination of sincerity, humor, and reality. In the second episode of the first season, one of the characters says, “Tomorrow is a whole new day that has never been touched.” And I think that might actually sum up why I love romantic comedies so much. They instill a sense of renewed optimism, a belief in possibility and the exhilarating idea that your life is not all mapped out for you, that something unexpected can happen at any time and completely change your life.
Is it silly, maybe a little dizzy, to think that? I asked my husband what he thought of romantic comedies. “Well, these are just pretenses,” he said, “fantasies”. Could it be the male take on romantic comedies (or perhaps, more ominously, just my husband’s take on romance)? Is it really so crazy to believe that maybe one day, while reading a book, in a cafe in the big city, a 20-year-old woman could lift her eyes from the pages of her novel (ideally Cent by Gabriel García Márquez Years of Solitude) to meet another’s eyes across the room, and so they find a much more interesting story in each other?
It might be the stuff of fairy tales, but as one great fairy tale writer once wrote, those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.