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I have a question, Mr M! What are your thoughts on romcoms that do not have buddies/sidekicks for the protagonists to unburden their innermost thoughts to. I'm thinking predominantly about BEFORE SUNRISE here (and struggling to come up with any others if I'm honest).

Do you think a romcom that focuses entirely on the two leads without any subplots or buddies will negatively affect the overall story/experience - and that the writer is digging themselves into a hole - or do you think it can focus attention on the core storyline of two people falling in love and the time they spend together?

E.C. Henry

More fodder for the next rom-com, how-to book, Billy. Yay! That Is coming SOMEDAY soon, is it not?

HUGE fan of "How I Met Your Mother." It's unique, likeable group carries a very stupid premice; namely its title, "How I Met Your Mother." I mean future Ted telling his future children his misadventures of how he met their mother -- which has been getting drug out for YEARS!!! Pull my hair out at how exasperating THAT aspect of the show is. BUT Barney is always fun to watch. And Cobie Smulder (Robin Sharboski) is sooo easy on the eyes -- gotta get me one of dose... Really like how their dynamic plays off each other, which realy helps overcome its assine premice, which ISN'T meant to be carried on season after season.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Tim Miller

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Crazy Stupid Love, where most of the characters seem to be doing double duty as protagonist in one plot and buddy or mentor or antagonist in another. I'm specifically thinking of Ryan Gosling as the buddy/mentor who is also a protagonist in the parallel plot -- but there's also the element of the "rivalry" between Steve Carrel and his son for the affections of the babysitter.

Rob in L.A.

Something worth keeping in mind, at the other extreme, is not to give the buddy or group of buddies so much to do that they overshadow the leads. One of "She's Out of My League's" many flaws was that (SPOILER ALERT!) the buddies were so active in the climax that the leads were rendered too passive. I felt that the couple ultimately coming together was more of a triumph for the buddies' efforts than it was a triumph of boy getting girl. By contrast, "Notting Hill's" buddies are very active in the climax, but not to the extent that they upstage William's efforts to reconnect with Anna.

Also, I would say that "Wedding Crashers" is more about John (Owen Wilson) than it is about Jeremy (Vince Vaughn). John and Claire make up the A plot, while Jeremy and Gloria make up the B plot. After all, John (who gets the most screentime in the third act) has the biggest "lose," and the climax is all about John patching things up with Claire in front of the wedding guests. A two-couple rom-com where the film is evenly divided between the two love stories would be an interesting critter to see, but "Wedding Crashers" is focused more on John than on Jeremy.


MJK: I think it's a tough one to pull off - the number of truly memorable rom-coms that have been strictly two-handers is pretty slim (even the minimalist WHEN HARRY... had a buddy couple on board, for contrast). A one couple-only romantic comedy is extremely execution dependent, if by this we're talking about no subplot whatsoever. But I think therein lies your answer: It's not so much that your rom-com has to have a Buddy of any kind along for the ride, but you generally do need a subplot of some sort, a "B" to go to, if only to augment, thematically compare/contrast, provide a storytelling counterpoint.

EC: So how do you really feel about HOW I MET...'s premise?

Tim: I think of CSL as an ensemble movie, first and foremost, i.e. it feels as though the story lines built in and around anchorman Steve Carell are all given fairly equal weight. But you're right that Gosling's presence as a buddy (as well as the later Buddy Reversal of Carell becoming a buddy to him) gives him an added importance as he becomes the protagonist of his own story line. The dual connection/ functions of many characters in that roundelay is one of the things that makes the movie work (or makes you cringe, if you don't buy into this same contrivance).

Rob: I bow to your CRASHERS wisdom, with the confession that it's been some time since I last screened that pic. But I do think that the movie's success, having ridden in on the horse of "buddies," in a year that also saw HITCH (prominent buddy subplot) and 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (all male buddy group) seems to have had some influence on a lot of post-Apatow 2000s male POV rom-coms. The idea of a strong, prominently featured second banana subplot has become more a normative staple of contemporary rom-coms since 2005.


Thanks Billy, another amazing article! I can't thank you enough!



Really enjoyed this one. Especially appreciated the buddy group as Greek chorus. Always keen on hearing about studio trends too. Thanks for bringing your blog back, Billy!


I agree with Rob in L.A. Curious about the success of WEDDING CRASHERS - nerd alert! - I spent eight hours painstakingly outlining it scene by scene. It's Owen Wilson's movie. The "John" character. The second act goal is for John to "get Claire Cleary." Everything that happens is opposition to this goal. Jeremy wants off the island and away from the crazy Gloria, Claire's boyfriend Zach is the big obstacle, the mother wants John for himself, etc.

In my opinion, the third act is a mess, but no one noticed except Roger Ebert and myself (heh) because the second act is so well done.

Roger Ebert's tidbit:

"You know all those horror stories about a cigar-chomping producer who screens a movie and says they need to lose 15 minutes and shoot a new ending? "Wedding Crashers" needed a producer like that."
I concur. Still, it's a great film - fun, irreverent and clever. The buddy stuff was well done. They set them up to have opposing world views. John questions whether or not they're too old to be crashing weddings. Jeremy blows this off. But in the end, the joke is on Jeremy. John is the philosophical protagonist, and hero. Because he recognizes early on they are TOO OLD to be doing this!

Kid In The Front Row

NOTTING HILL is a fabulous example, all those characters are SO REAL. I feel like I know those guys!

That's often the most disappointing thing when you watch a modern rom-com, they cut to the scene with the 'friend' and it's such a hack job, so convenient, hardly ever any truth in it.

That's why I liked JEREMY PIVEN pre-ENTOURAGE. He'd turn up in films like SERENDIPITY and THE FAMILY MAN as 'the friend', and he was SO GOOD AT IT! Let's hope his career tanks soon and we'll get him back as the buddy guy.

Roland Denzel

Serendipity? This movie has no redeeming value. Not even Kate Beckinsale is enough to help. A movie must be based in reality or give us something to allow us to relax our expectations of reality or the story can't work. You might as well invoke Kate & Leopold...

Roland Denzel

I do agree on Notting Hill (and Four Weddings). We DO know these guys, and it helps us to know the lead as they know him.

I think it also helps connect us that we all want to have friends like that. We have in the past, so even though these are fictional friends, that nostalgic feeling sets in and suddenly we're hooked.

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