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First of all, Happy Valentine's Day, Billy!
Sorry, my friend, I saw "Definitely, Maybe" at a screening the other day, and no, it definitely was not. A nice attempt at doing something different - maybe it was better on paper - but for me (and admittedly, I am NOT an expert), it wasn't happening. And making an esteemed actor like Kevin Kline come out with an old Borscht-Belt joke was just wrong.
Ryan Reynolds is not a romantic lead, and the women were just wasted in this movie. And it dragged on and on...
(So, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, how'd you like the play?)

Christian Howell

Great article. I caught your interview last night with Chris Soth. I'm a longtime member of HBP, a great service to plug, I mean to use.
It was unfortunate that the usual open question mode wasn't on. I agree with most of what you say about the state of the average rom com, but then formula is, as you stated, a problem with any genre.

Anyway you mentioned something last night that stuck out in my mind. The word SUPERTEXT. You usually only hear subtext harped on but the supertext is the glue that makes a cohesive line of thought throughout your character\story structure.

It got me to thinking of it as a way to "visualize theme through character interaction.(I sense a blog post about it)"

For rom coms, I guess it means characters are tragic and not funny, but the funny is the way they deal with their "life-state." Usually with the help of a, hopefully not too slutty or nerdy, support character.

It gave me a few ideas for my first two rom com attempts. Thanks much.


I've watched French Kiss so many times that I can parrot half the dialogue. I love the movie.

So... I just got a text message from the guy I'm dating - he asked if we could see Definitely, Maybe tonight. That's a good sign for the movie, the guy asking the girl to go to the rom com. Means this movie might do some male $$.

I'll keep this post in mind as I rewrite my recent rom com for the 4th time. Fortunately, it follows your advice (whew!) and love is a surprise, not a goal.

E.C. Henry

Like Christian Howell, I too heard your phone interview with Chris Soth last night. Good job, there, listening to you then, then thinking about you while at work today I couldn't help but draw the comparision: Billy Mernit IS the white man's Barry Love.

Perhaps the Bush admistration could put that talent of yours to work. Covert Op in Afganistan, are you game? We'll drop ya deep in enemy soil with only a copy of "Writing the Romantic Comedy" to defend yourself against the savages. We'll wait a week. Then we'll listen. What we're listening for is communial singing of "Cumbyeya" or any of the locals singing the praises of "Groundhog Day" in Arabic.

That was a joke, but of course I do think you are the best defender of the romantic comedy genre in America today.

What I'm finding out about critics is they love to bash, but yeild little when it comes to building. What I like the most about you, Billy, is that you have the foresight and imagination to see where our beloved genre can go. ANYONE can bash a flop, but the TRUE TALENT in Hollywood is always working on creating that next masterpiece that leaves the critics scratching their heads, left to wonder, "Where'd that come from?"

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

chris soth

Hey All,

You should have heard Billy last night on Hollywood By Phone, talking about this AO Scott story, Valentine's Day and so much more... can hear it:

Check it out!

Chris (It's OFF THE HOOK!)


Thanks, Chris!


The first thing I thought when I read that NYT article is I wonder if Billy Mernit mentioned this on his blog?

And so I had a little giggle when I came here this morning and saw your Valentines post!


I tend to stay away from romantic movies on Valentine's day.

...something about a suicidal tendency that pops up every once in a while...

Judith Duncan

Gosh,Great post as usual,but what a surprise as I scrolled down to the end and saw the picture of my favorite scene from a film that really touched me as a child.'Lady & the Tramp'I vividly remember the scene when they were eating spaghetti together and accidentally kissed.I was watching it on t.v. and was too young to know why I loved it,but something about that scene wrapped around my heart.I'm going to print it out and stick to my computer as I write.Thanks again,as always ,you offer so much Billy.


Binnie: Well, at least A.O. Scott liked it (
Happy V-Day at any rate --

Christian, you're superwelcome.

Christina: Sounds like you're loaded for bear.

EC: Well, we know where YOU'RE coming from. But what exactly is in the water of Bonney Lake, WA?

Thanks Chris!

Oh wait MaryAn said that.

I made Denise giggle.

J, is it the movies that are making you suicidal? Try a book.

Judith: Living RomCom -- decorating the world's computers, one home at a time.

Lisa Rothstein

Liked this article, and also what you had to say on your conference call with Chris Soth. As someone who has written a few scripts (all comedies or rom-coms)and gotten as far as interest and meetings from prodcos that seemed promising at first followed by rejection at studios, I am frustrated not so much with the crap-shoot difficulty of getting something sold or made (this has has always come with the territory) but with the fact that the reason given for rejection is often something that, if addressed, would make the movie worse a la A.O. Scott's complaints. "Make the heroine more sympathetic at the beginning," they chant, over and over. Why does everyone in a script have to be so #$**@ likeable from page one? How are you supposed to create original, individual, interesting characters--always important but even more vital in a predictable genre--let alone have any kind of character arc, if everyone, especially females, have to be nice and lovable all the time? Going from "nice" to "really, REALLY nice" is not much of an arc, people. Back in the day, Katherine Hepburn was a real bitch in many of her roles before true love cut her down to size. Clark Gable and Cary Grant were often arrogant or rude (albeit hot). Why is everybody so scared these days? I'm not sure a script like Groundhog Day--with a great character who starts off as a class 1 @hole, could get through the system now without being "niced down". I think this is one reason why the gross-out comedies are the stand-outs they are today--the buyers expect to be offended at least part of the time, so some good characters and writing can slip in under the radar while they're busy squirming over vagina or semen jokes. The big surprises in these movies turn out not to be the gross-out factor but the memorable characters, who are allowed to start off as either massively self-absorbed, childish, selfish, slobs or all of the above. But for those of us who wish to eschew bodily fuctions as a diversionary tactic, given that only the first 10 pages of scripts usually get read before judgement is passed, maybe a disclaimer on the first page should read "Don't worry, you'll really like this character by the end of the script." But requiring that all characters start out likeable and end even more likeable is a recipe for the pap people like you and A.O. Scott decry today. The only answer I can see right now is the manipulative trick of throwing in a "Save the Cat" moment a la Blake Snyder's book early on to reassure readers of an imperfect or unlikable hero's inherent niceness. Seems like a cheat, but until someone comes up with a better solution, I guess I'll have to take it. Here, Fluffy...


Well, okay okay okay. I know The Times liked the movie, but I still think the shtick Kevin Kline was made to do was too...shticky.
I should probably re-read an earlier post you wrote about how seeing a movie with a particular person can color your opinion of the movie. I saw "Definitely, Maybe" with someone I wanted to THROW OUT A WINDOW. So maybe my opinion was influenced in some way...

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