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Does the answer to your genre defining question--"Will these two individuals become a couple?"--have to be "yes"? If not, would you list some of the better ... er ... more noteworthy ...films that answered the question in the negative?

Thanks - Mark


Maestro Mark: Certainly -
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (they're not together physically but together eternally)
ANNIE HALL (they broke up but it was the most significant relationship of his life)
CHASING AMY (pretty much the same deal)
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER - ditto.

Frank  Conniff

I saw the trailer for this new movie with Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, it's written by the woman who wrote the script of The Devil Wears Pravda and it seems to express the same theme, which is that career women suffer when they devote themselves wholeheartedly to their jobs. If they don't cut back on the workaholism, they'll lose out on the dreamy guy, and in the 3rd act, they always chuck their careers and go with the dreamy guy. It made me think of "Broadcast News" and how at the end the Holly Hunter character's integrity and devotion to the principles of her work causes her to reject the dreamy guy. She places her professional passion above her romantic passion. Yes, she pays a price for it, but there was no doubt at least to me that she made the right decision by staying devoted to her work rather than go off to an island with handsome doofus WIlliam Hurt. "Broadcast News" has always been a singularly unique and brilliant film, but as the years go by and other romantic comedies continue to stay safe and trite and conventional, it just continues to grow in stature, at least to me.


To me, choosing the guy over the job is what puts the rom in rom-com, the same as the guy choosing marriage and/or commitment over a life of promiscuousness. Gotta remember what genre we're watching.
I read somewhere recently: "I hate when the guy has to suck up to the girl at the end" (of a rom-com). Talk about a glass half empty.
That's like saying: I hate when you get married and have a family, and there's all these annoying people running around your house!
And at the risk of sounding even cattier (got nothing but love! ;) I checked and found that Living the UnRomantic Comedy is still available. Oh yes, I went there.


You check your spelling, you make sure your comment is readable, then you post it... and realize you were responding to a previous column... doh! I was responding to a post that insinuated all rom-coms should be more like Broadcast News where the girl chooses the job over the guy(s). So in closing, as I embarrassingly leave the room with a big rip in my pants, I say defiantly, "Better late then never." I nod, raise my chin... and find the only door in the place that is locked, a la Bush II.


Okay, so I post a comment.
Then I re-read it (and who doesn't love to read their own words in print, after all?) ...and I mistakenly believe I have responded to an earlier column, not the current column!

So in my great desire to please and not be seen as a fool, I hastily post a "correction."
I then re-read it (right? wouldn't you?) and am mortified to discover I had posted correctly the first time.
I was trying to conceal a rip in my pants that wasn't there.
And now there's a rip in the front.
But I will tell you, quite confidently, that it was all a ruse, and you all fell for it... because, what this was, was a pitch, yes! A rom-com about a clumsy accident-prone guy who writes a series of love letters (emails?) to a girl whom he adores even though she just tortures him, only to have one of his letters intercepted by... a princess! No, a pop star, lonely but down to earth, like the singer in Taken that Liam protects, who can never find real love... who then contacts this homely writer of romantic letters and a romance blossoms... only to be complicated by the first girl, who digs him a lot more now that Taylor Swift wants him.
Sorry, went off for a minute there.
But seriously... it would probably work better if the sexes were reversed, right?

Daniel Smith

Great blog. I really do enjoy hearing your thoughts. Have you or your students been to They don't have a RomCom category but you can request it. (hint, hint)

Frank  Conniff

Romaldi said: "To me, choosing the guy over the job is what puts the rom in rom-com, the same as the guy choosing marriage and/or commitment over a life of promiscuousness. Gotta remember what genre we're watching."

Yes, but the writer has gotta remember to be true to the character he's created, and in "Broadcast News" James L. Brooks had Holly Hunter make the only possible decision she could have made being the person that she was. I think Brooks never forgot what genre he was writing and he was exploring the same theme as many rom coms: the workplace vs the personal life, but he wrote it with a nuance and complexity that you don't usually see in the genre. This didn't make it any less of a romantic comedy, it made it a BETTER romantic comedy.


Oops, touched a nerve. Broadcast News is great, by the way. Imho, it's also the exception that proves the rule.
What I was attacking (but not hoping to cut to the nerve -- I'm more of a nerf sword guy) is this: "but as the years go by and other romantic comedies continue to stay safe and trite and conventional..." Lame rom-coms aside… the conventions of this genre dictate that you're gonna get your comedy, you're gonna get your romance, and for the romance to pay off and be fulfilling (to the typical rom-com genre lover) they must come together and become one. That’s the “promise of the premise” of the genre.
Outside of French films, most rom-com audiences understand that the goal of the “romancer” and or “romancee” is not to continue forever in a romantic state alone, but to also commit to a relationship (an idea that is typically sexier to women than men?) where the romance can hopefully live on.
I applaud the push for more creative storytelling: surprise us, please! I think Billy said this somewhere in his book: show us these two belong together, then tear them apart and convince us (in our cozy suspension of disbelief) that they may not end up together, that the obstacles are too insurmountable, then bring them together for that huge audience tension release (with more skill and less contrivance). Which, by the way, is very healing: it can remind us to bring the rom to our own possibly rom-deficient relationships… and make the world a better place.


Frank: I, too, am a big fan of BROADCAST - still showing clips from it to my classes, to this day - and I think your observation is astute. I remember at the time Brooks got a lot of flack for his seemingly "open-ended" and "unsatisfying" ending, which I think merely illustrates its timelessness - i.e. (as you say) being true to character, not convention. What's sad, looking at NEWS now, is how that whole issue of "media people becoming the news" is so quaint in 2010. The "line" that Hurt refers to as constantly moving has moved so far over that it's vanished altogether.

Romaldi: Actually, I really enjoyed where you "went off for a minute." Sounds like the viable starting point for a rom-com, to me.

And it would be interesting to see a contemporary rom-com that explored the "can a working woman have it all?" issue without caving to the standard conventions.

Meanwhile - seeing as you and Frank seem to have clarified your stances and resolved your respective POVs, there's not much for me to add to that discussion, beyond saying, Welcome Romaldi to Living the RomCom's world!

Daniel: Thank you for the comment and for the "Top 100" tip. I'm sure it'll give me plenty to gnash my teeth over for days to come...


I would have to argue that Harold and Maude is a romantic comedy because you wonder throughout about their relationship. Furthermore, I'd put it in "the answer is no" column. The girl Harold meets at the end is to help us see Harold's arc and to make Maude's death easier for the audience to stomach.


I found I get into an anxious, over-thinking state when I try to do a "best of" list so I gave it up. Just as, from a watching perspective, I don't get to worried about whether something is a romantic comedy or a western.

What I do, however, is a list along these lines: "Some Movies I Really Like a Lot that Happen to be Romantic Comedies Except When They Are Not."

I feel I've covered my bases then. The word "some" is because I always forget a movie and end up revising endlessly as other movies I've forgotten come to mind. "Some" gets me off the hook. :)


MaryAn: It so totally is a rom-com and I so totally missed the boat...

Bill: Some is good. Some is great. "Some" is awesome, actually, and I'm going to start using it more often.

E.C. Henry


Sorry it's taken me so long to chime in on this post. Read it on Sunday, but was too tired to post a response (8 hrs in on the new job on Sunday, 12 in on Monday - Wendsday). But, there are two girls there that I'm attracted too, but I digress...

Moving foreward. Thinking about this post for the past two days 1 key profound thought came to me concerning how to think of romantic comedys: romance and comedy orbit a uniuqe world or source of attraction designed to interest an audience.

Expounding on this thesis I took the liberyy of TRYING to help you come up with some snazzy, new names for sub-groups under the romantic comedy genre umbrella. Here's what I came up with...

"Ego Driven R-Com": "How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days," "Hitch." In the "ego driven r-com the world the romance and comedy revolves around is one of two self-aware people in elete postions. The focus is on witty banter, and how the two members of the couple can out smart each other and advance their own agenda. In the "ego driven r-com" character arcs aren't as important as they are in other r-com sub-genres. RATHER it's more of a case of the character's ego getting in the way of them enjoying the romance laid out in the story.

"Concept Driven R-com": "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Groundhog Day," "What Women Want," "(500) Days of Summer." In the "concept driven r-com" the REAL draw is the concept played with in the world of this romantic comedy -- not the couples! Honestly, did ANYONE give two shits about the romance between Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski? Off the top of your head, do you even know what movie those two characters come from? Of cource not. And ya know why... ? It's because in Charlie Kaufman's story THE DEVICE and CONCEPT he plays with IS the main artractor. What makes C-Kauf's story special is the fact that the doctor and crew are working on the memories of a scorned ex-lover faces the realizaion he's going to miss the memories of that person he had a relationship with. That's high concept, rom-com style. Hence the moniker, "concept driven r-com."

"Wish Fulfillment R-com": "13 Going on 30," "Enchanted," "Pretty Woman," "Just Like Heaven." Ethereal, time traveling, re-writing the past, or entering a new world in persuit of love.

"Raunchy R-com": "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," "Something About Mary." High content of male point-of-view, adolescent, raunchy, humor.

"Underdog R-Com": "While You Were Sleeping."

"Caper R-com": "A Fish Called Wanda," "True Romance." Romance framed about the cat-n-mouse robbery/running from the law.

Hope these help with "Writing the Romantic Comdedy: Version 2.0". 'Cuz as it's out -- I'm buyin' it! So get on it, Mernitman!

Peace. Out.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA


We watch movies to witness “heroes” performing feats we are usually afraid to do in real life. From cavemen campfires to modern 3-D movies, great characters in great stories show us the way. And what is perhaps the greatest journey of all? Love. Not kicking ass and taking names, which is difficult and fun, but the lowering of our defenses to allow love to take root in our heart… that’s a toughie. Why? Because most of us have unconsciously put up massive barriers that severely impede true intimacy.

I believe we unconsciously want to learn how to love, and because they don’t teach this stuff in school (though that's where we pick up a lot of our shields), we gravitate to rom-coms and their hybrids to show us the way… into our own heart.

You could say it’s the B story for why we watch romantic comedies – love is what we truly need.

I went back and read Broadcast News – it’s awe-inspiring, breathtaking writing. The irony is that Tom probably did become a guy Jane could live with – he later refused the Managing Editor position normally paired with the anchor job because he knew he wasn’t qualified – and if Jane had forgiven him for his manufactured tear during the date-rape segment, she could have had a great relationship with him. Some might say she won a moral battle but lost the more important war (long-term love) and that she couldn’t get over herself (or out of her head) long enough to think that he was decent enough to see the error in his thinking. The plane(!) was taking off and she made a life decision in seconds. Others might say, “That’s who she was at the beginning and I didn’t want her to change. She’s got spunk, that girl!”

Two of those three characters’ endings perhaps satisfies the intellect (fine), but not the transcendent (love). We need both kinds of films (you make love work or you don't) and I think my point is that it’s helpful to consciously know which one we’re writing and why.

Holly Stapleon

I am simply looking for a good romantic comedy. Nothing from a certain category, im not here to complain about movies or argue, i just want someone to tell me a list of movies a teenage girl can watch when she's bored. I've pretty much seen every good movie there is to see. But i wouldn't mind watching a really good one that people forgot about or hasn't been played much recently. a movie HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, or even something like GOOD LUCK CHUCK. But everyone knows of those. I'm looking for something that people have forgotten about. But something good.
Any suggestions???


Holly: If you've never seen EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, that's a fun one... Barely noticed but really good, I think, is THE GIRL IN THE CAFE (from Richard "4 WEDS" Curtis)... THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS holds up well... and one guilty pleasure of recent years is MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND.


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