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Thank goodness my quasi-date picked Over The Hedge instead. I might not have gotten dinner...and breakfast...otherwise.

chesher cat

I liked it.


Well, I consider myself fortunate. I stayed home tonight and watched "Shakespeare in Love" yet again.

It seems to be there have been a string of movies like this (like The Break-Up) recently ... lots of potential that is simply never mined. Perhaps too much attention is being paid to the trailers than to the actual film? I dunno.


I wasn't planning on seeing the movie based on the reviews and the trailer. 2 people I know (one is a former fiance - hmm, my keyboard won't let me put an accent on fiance) have been going through this very "War of the Roses" type of scenario for three years now. They're both pathetic, living in the same apartment, suing each other for custody (of the dog!), holding out for money that neither party is willing to fork over. So not funny.
Welcome back, Billy!

alisa kwitney

I can't say anything about The Breakup, as I never manage to see films until they're past their sell-by date. But last night I finally rented The Wedding Crashers, and got all sad about the movie that almost was -- (Spoiler but only for anyone who is even more behind film-watching than I am) the story of a manic, charming sleaze who meets his Fatal Attraction and then falls for her. If only Vince's plotline had been the main one, and if only they had let his nutty girlfriend become convinced that Vince was cheating on her with her brother, giving free rein to her bunny-boiling wildness before Vince has his epiphany that a) she may be crazy, but he is kind of crazy, too and b) he loves her.


Maybe it wasn't the writing, but the editing, ingoring, rewriting, hacking up, coughing up, and spitting out by editors and directors that made it look like the writing suffered....?

And, how close is this story-wise (not writing quality and execution-wise) to War of the Roses?


Say what you will, but that scene towards the end with Jen going to the Old 97s concert foir a last ditch, hail mary, is one of the more heartbreaking scenes I've ever seen in a film. Maybe it hit a little too close to home, but I felt it was done perfectly.


Congrats, HuckleCat -- that sounds, um... yummy.

Chesher: and so did I, to some degree -- but the What It Could've Beens of it all kept tripping me up. A case of my having had too many expectations (always a bad idea)...

Bill: movie development is such a byzantine and nearly unfathomable process, with so many X factors involved that I'm amazed when something Truly Great comes out...

Binnie: best "custody of the dog" scene ever is in The Awful Truth -- now, THAT's funny...

Alisa: but hey, you know what? since they didn't make That Movie... go for it!...

Hey Mary A: It's been years since I saw Roses, but it's only generally/conceptually close, I think. Re: the writer v. development issue, in this case, Mr. Vaughn has to claim responsibility, since he seeded the project, co-wrote and produced -- it's primarily His Baby.

Mike: I agree -- the 97s scene was definitely one of the "effectively poignant" moments I cite. I realize that my post emphasizes the negatives over the positives in the pic, but that's not to say there isn't good stuff in there. It's just that it could have been So Much Better...


And once again we realize that life is not a romantic comedy. Thank goodness.


Well, Billy, may we all be A list enough to hack up and one day film our own hairballs.


Mernitman, I don't really know how much better the film could have been. Granted, some of the supporting characters were a little over the top, but I felt it worked. (Even though the Favreau character is a little useless and contradicts himself, it's nice to see him playing what is normally the Vaughn role).

I see what you mean, though, about how they left out the main movie where these two actually do have a relationship, but I also feel that if the movie did that, it would be easier for us to pick sides in the fight, which the movie wisely avoids. For example, if we see this as Vaughn's behavior night after night, we start to sympathize with Jennifer, and if we see Jen constantly harping on Vaughn, we want to sympathize with Vaughn and tell him to get out fast.

I also feel that the movie didn't take the cheap way out and have it be about the two of them fueding over the apartment.

Personally, I felt the flick could have gone through even more painful scenes of reality (dividing of stuff, pictures, etc) but that would have scared off most of the intended audience.

However, there really is one glaring hole that irks me, being that by showing the "last straw" they never truly show that they're borken up. It's just a natural assumption that most people in a relationship would be able to talk it over with. This being the movies, it's never that simple though.

Of course, I saw this movie a week after my girlfriend dumped my punk ass, so maybe I took a lot going into the movie.

E.C. Henry

Mike, I'm with you. I like the Old 97 scene, it was heartbreaking, and one of the real bright spots in the film.

Guys, I think some of "The Break-up" problems SHOULD have been worked out in development. Didn't this story feel like it needed a little punching up, crisper dialog, better zingers, more memorable scenes. Also this film felt like a "How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days" wannabe.

Vince Vaughn CAN BE hillarious, "Bo Cool", "The Wedding Crashers." This man has raw comedic timing/aptidue to elevate material -- in my opinion. But he looked hung-over for most of the picture. Maybe he should tone down the late night action.

LOVE Jennifer Ansiton now. Wow! what a 10!! When it comes to her the E.C. Henry kissing booth is always open for buisness. A bit fustrated, however, over the part of the movie where Jeniffer Aniston is stuttinging arround in her birthday suit and Vince Vaugn's head is in the way. Think they'll edit that out when the DVD is released? (Still, clever camera work)

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA


Yes, as Brooke knows it is not ALL cake.

I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours, MaryA.

Mike, oh, Mike... Mike, honey... Ouch. But WRITING WELL IS THE BEST REVENGE, so go ahead and get autobiographical on your shit, I think it might help.

Huh, E.C. now that you mention it... Maybe in addition to the partying, it's that wearing too many hats thing, 'cause Vince's head definitely looked bent out of shape here and there...


I can't get over the sight of the comically lumbering giant Vaughn hooked up with the miniscule priss Aniston. It could never happen in real life.


1. Wasn't Favreau the lead in Swingers...the one that got the girl?

2. Would the timbre of the comments have been the same had the movie been French? Or would it have been given more slack, structurally? Is it possible that the presumed faults might be taken as daring philosophical provocations in the highbrow press?

just wondering


Hey Billy,
Great post... I especially liked the way you pointed out the essential, non-negotiable for a rom-com, even the anti-rom-com: we must believe that the two leads are perfect for each other, so right for each other, that we care. You must get the audience on board, or the complications won't matter.

"Serendipity" is a recent film I think created that essential feeling of caring about the two leads who are mfeo - made for each other. Now, say what you will about the movie (I so like it), but I think it does a truly nice job of establishing the chemistry between the two leads (the meet-cute, the 'date' on ce skating...), and it gets the audience on board with why the characters make the choices they make. At the end of the movie, when the two mfeo's meet on the ice rink again, it's magic. The song "Northern Sky" by Nick Drake, of course, helps seal the deal.

Thanks, Billy, for bringing us back to the essence of writing a rom-com... it's not as simple as finding complications to separate the two romantic leads. No, what is the simple part of the equation is that the two leads, who are kept apart - by neurosis, class, prejudice, etc. - are clearly mfeo. Easier said than done, for sure, but that's what it takes.

"Say Anything", is a good example, too... like when Lloyd (John Cusack) pushes the glass out of Diane's (Ione Skye) way as they walk across the am/pm parking lot. The audience just "knows" this is the real deal.

Oh, and "Runaway Bride" was on tv the other night. I love how Ike (Richard Gere) figures out how Maggie (Julia Roberts) was never in love, fully herself in any of her previous relationships - the eggs, how she likes them prepared. Ike figures out that Maggie always ordered eggs the way her current boyfriend would. This 'discovery' helps Maggie figure out that what she wants, is, of course, Ike - as set up by the beginging chemistry. The eggs thing is clever, cute, and character revealing for both.


Wait, JJ -- that phrase, "real life" -- I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with... what is that again?

Welcome, Scrvnr88: Thanks for the correction -- Favreau is indeed the lead in Swingers, and so technically he shouldn't be deemed "the buddy."

Your other comments puzzle me a bit, though. I can't speak for the "highbrow press," being neither highbrow nor press, but in my book, it wouldn't matter if the movie was in French or Swahili: it didn't entirely work for me.

You don't honestly think I'd give a foreign film more slack in this regard just because it's foreign?
I'm not knocking Break-Up because it's a movie that goes against Hollywood formula. In fact, if you read my post again, you'll see that I actually applaud the filmmakers' attempt to "do something different" -- partially what disappoints me is that they didn't "go different" enough!

I've noticed a number of reviewers and bloggers taking this same tack. The supposition seems to be that if you don't enjoy The Break-Up, this must automatically mean you don't enjoy anything unconventional that goes against the perceived Hollywood grain. I can only speak for myself in this regard --a lover of "Eternal Sunshine," the Richard Linklater "Before" films, "Chasing Amy" and any number of American romantic comedies that are anything but conventional/formulaic, as well as a devotee of the more standard fare. What I analyze in my post are weaknesses that transcend "mainstream," "indie," high/low brow or whatever.

For the record, if this was a French film, I'd probably have said that it lacked a certain "je ne sais pas," and ended up making snarky comments about leg-less Frogs in Love. :-)

Hey, Scribe: Glad you related -- nice "mfeo" examples (and hmmm... nice acronym... might have to steal it)...


I watched the movie "Prime" tonight and it got me thinking about quite a few movies I've seen recently in the comedy and rom-com end of things.

Some movies (particularly rom-coms) aren't light enough - they're weighed down by what seems to be a perceived responsibilty to treat their subject seriously (like Prime). Other films, more often straight comedies, are so light as to be almost drivel, if not sheer drivel.

The on-screen result seems incapable of reaching that middle ground where the serious elements and the silly ones are in balance. The obvious question is why.

Is it because certain films are being shoe-horned into certain marketing templates? Is it because directors have lost the sensibility required to find the right balance? Is it the demands of audiences?

I'm not sure where the problem lies, but for me current movies seem god-awful serious or god-awful stupid. Are films that find balance simply rare, elusive gems stumbled upon by accident, or is there something askew these days in the way they are made?


btw ... that was my long winded way of asking why so many "comedies" just aren't funny.


I think Bill makes an excellent point, and I totally agree that few movies these days achieve that delicate balance between serious and funny.

As far as Bill's question goes, the answer I choose is "because certain films are being shoe-horned into certain marketing templates."

I "did" the Tribeca film fest this year, and one of the screenings I attended was for a movie called "The TV Set." In a nutshell the movie is about a writer trying to create a show from a script based on his own life story. During the course of the movie the studio chief (Signourney Weaver) tries to convince the writer (David Duchovny) that he should make the show "less sad" because audiences prefer happy TV shows. I don’t want to spoil anything so you’ll have to see the movie (if it comes out) to find out just how funny that is.

And by the way, I found the fact that a group of "movie people" made a movie criticizing "TV people" for pandering to their audience pretty hilarious, (not to mention kind of obnoxious).

As far as "The Breakup" goes, I haven't bothered to see it because the impression the trailer left me with is:

a. These two people don't seem emotionally invested enough to bother staying together, never mind making an actual investment in that big (beautifully furnished) apartment.

b. They have no onscreen chemistry. They don’t seem to belong together. (No comment on their “real life” chemistry.)

c. After watching the 30 second commercial I wish they would just go away and not come back. I find them both annoying. I don’t care to find out what happens to them.

I know some of you will think I'm making snap judgments based on the trailer, but isn't that what the people selling the movie want you to do?


Bill, your comment is so intriguing to me that I don't want to be quick or glib about it here, and instead, I plan to make it the basis of a blog post.

You've hit on some core issues that bedevil those of us who are involved (however peripherally) in the business of trying to "make movies work," and I want to really think seriously about how to respond to this...

Denise's comment amplifies one of those issues: the whole business of studios (producers, writers, et al) trying to second-guess an audience that is, I believe, in the midst of a subtle but pervasive sea-change... At any rate, I'm curious about The TV Set, so thanks for the advance head's up.


lets start with the obvious.
a date is an anti-date.
anyone ever actually been on one would know. its been a freakin long time but I know of what i speak.

now the important part... making a movie (ok kids here comes the clumsy metaphor shit) is like making a rope bridge across a gorge. or at least it should be. equal parts poetry + function (see any buster keaton, if you dont instantly believe me). second guessing the audience, test screening the whole massive inbred (why isnt there spell check on blogs?) machine is self pronouncing , a self predicting plague on all of our houses. its simple, these movies would not pass the basic function of amusement in any square in the history of mankind. the basics of conflict and remedy found in the punch and judy show or whatever knock this character of the head comedy is not to be found in the barren desert called Hollywood. Look, I hate to be such a downer.... but look at the crew we put in the white house for 8 years... you want to second guess that audience, capable of that?


I'm happy my comment is intriguing and I look forward to whatever you have to say. This really is something that bothers me, to a large extent because I'm not sure about the why. Is it me? The films? A combination of both?

I don't want to be one of those guys who always refers back to old movies because there is great work out there. But I can't help looking back at one of my favorite films, "My Man Godfrey," and wonder how they managed to make something like that, walking a fine balance in the context of romantic comedy (a screwball at that). They even managed to fit homelessness into that! So ... how? Is it luck? A formula? Sensibility?

Anyway ... it's a question that bothers me so any thoughts are appreciated.


Bill, it's not just the movies that are mediocre; what is being mass-produced and force-fed and second-guessed-to-death to consumers of music is cut from the same crappy cloth. There are no true A&R (Artist and Repertoire) people at record companies anymore, to nurture and develop an amazing new artist. Hell, there aren't even any record companies anymore, just 4 big conglomerates of corporations. Everything is a package, a lot of it is a truly lousy package at that, with drum sequencing and loops TAKEN FROM OTHER RECORDS - SO much originality there, huh? - and so the parallel between the lousy movies and the lousy music (fed to the same audience you're writing about) probably spreads over to other media as well. The standard has been lowered, therefore the expectation has been lowered (and, regarding the White House, talk about lowered expectations! everyone gets so excited when Bush actually pronounces something correctly), and unfortunately, the general public really doesn't care.


fyi ... I haven't had a chance to read this entire article, but I thought it popped up at an appropriate time:

Where Is the Love?
The decline of the romantic comedy

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