Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mixed Feelings: Loving and Hating Romantic Comedies

Disclaimer: I know I'm not the first person to complain about realism in mainstream romantic comedies and I know I won't be the last. I just wanted to get another voice out there. Also, as a spoiler alert, you shouldn't read this if you haven't seen (and want to see) 500 Days of Summer and When Harry Met Sally, as I write about their endings.

I recently acquired both 500 Days of Summer and When Harry Met Sally, two of my favorite films, or romantic comedies to be specific, on DVD. I watched them back to back, and two days later, I found myself seeing Valentine's Day, the latest generic Hollywood romantic comedy to hit the big screen. I chose it because I wanted to watch something new, but I wanted it to be a "lighter" film, as opposed to the "heavier" foreign films (The White Ribbon, A Prophet, etc.) I'm eager to see before the Oscars. I definitely got what I was looking for, but I think I would have felt better about myself if I had gone with one of the aforementioned foreign films. It was pretty much as light as they come, with no real nuance or realism akin to that which I found myself engulfed in only two nights earlier with my own double feature.

500 Days of Summer doesn't have a stereotypically happy ending (it's not exactly depressing though either), and When Harry Met Sally, while the story leading up to the ending is fairly original (especially for 1989), does manage to slide in to the happy ending pile. Although, as I discovered by watching some of the bonus features on the Collector's Edition DVD, the original script didn't see Harry and Sally becoming romantically involved at the end of the film. I personally would have rather seen that ending; while the whole New Year's climax is romantic, I do think it would be nice to see a "friend-mance" on the big screen between a straight male and a straight female that doesn't end up turning sexual or romantic. When I was a little girl, and even as I've grown up (a little), I've always fantasized about having great friends over great romance. I know that might be considered ridiculous or blasphemous to some, but it's the truth. So I would just like to see that reflected on the big screen.

Or, at the very least, I would like to see more stories similar to 500 Days of Summer and Annie Hall (another personal favorite movie/romantic comedy), which both go through the ups and downs of relationships, which I find to be a hell of a lot more realistic than a movie where almost every character winds up getting what they want or need, even if it's not the same as what they wanted or needed at the beginning of the movie.

Some people go to the movies for escapism (and I can occasionally be included in that group), but I mostly go to see life reflected or to be inspired by life lived. As far as romantic comedies go, Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally are the touchstones for the latter, and 500 Days of Summer and Away We Go (my favorite film/romantic comedy of 2009) are the most recent examples. I would rewatch them instead of seeing pretty much any of the mainstream Hollywood romantic comedies released in the last few years, and after watching Valentine's Day, I realize that's what I should've done.

Valentine's Day: 1 (out of 5)
500 Days of Summer: 4.5
When Harry Met Sally: 4.5
Annie Hall: 5
Away We Go: 5


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