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Rom Coms: Now and Then Part 2, Modern

You know that movie where the average, normal guy, played by a handsome Hollywood hunk, meets an equally regular and relatable woman, played by a bodacious babe. Not that one, the one where they fall in love then fight then make up and get married. No, the one where the girl’s friends that aren’t so sure of the new guy. Nope, that still isn’t it. Anyways, romantic comedies are nothing new. Since films began, there have been countless stories where people have been falling in love, fighting, and getting back together. I’m curious to see how they have changed (or not) over the last 50 years. I watched 3 from the 1950s and 60s, The Apartment – Billy Wilder 1960, Desk Set – Walter Lang 1957, and Charade – Stanley Donen 1963. I also watched three modern ones, Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell 2012, No Strings Attached – Ivan Reitman 2011, and Love and Other Drugs – Edward Zwick 2010. I will address a few things in these films. Is the romance creepy at all? What are recurring themes and motifs? Will there be a happily ever after?


As Little Dwayne blasts from an iPod mix as a tattooed youth strolls through Facebook on their MacBook chatting about their day with a new crush. We’ve moved beyond the days of Frank Sinatra and who “truly” won the Nixon/Kennedy debate (but all know who really won). Times have changed but have they in the world of Rom Coms?


What are the recurring themes and motifs?


Montages, montages, and more montages. You can’t go wrong with a montage set to the cinematic equivalent of department store music. There are a few types o’ montages in these films. The initial dating montage; where they gradually get more comfortable with each other and kiss for the first time. The falling in love montage; where they start having sex, having brunch, and incorporating them into their family and friend circles. The falling out of love and the breakup montage; these are similar enough but slightly different. When you break it down it’s the man is alone and/or hanging with his friends but something is amiss, same happens to the girl. Finally there’s the getting back together montage; where they rekindle the romance that had faded, get married, and/or have a baby.


On the topic of friends, in the old films the man is a strong manly man loner with no friends because men don’t need a support system of friends with similar interests that can help you out. Things are a little bit different this time around. Dudes have a few best buds, 2 to 3 usually. These friends fit into a few categories. The Black friend, he is Black and usually seen with his buds or with Black women. Only Black, he is never Korean or Mexican or Estonian or anything else. It’s good to see some diversity but there be more. For example Ludacris in No Strings Attached. The loser friend, he is more of a loser and fatter than the main character, typically there is a joke about porn at him. Also he is single or a failing relationship. For example, Josh Gad in Love and Other Drugs. The weird friend, similar to loser friend but he’s more weird than lonely possibly a stoner. For example Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook (he’s the main character but this combined the main guy with the weird friend type). One of the main things keeping all these guys friends is basketball. If they aren’t shown playing basketball, you see them coming from playing it. Universally the friends are bro douchebags that don’t wanna get tied down in a relationship because come on, being in a happy stable relationship is horrid.

black friend

loser friend

Instead of courting each other in a very chaste and traditional manner, people be fuckin’. The two lovers tend to start out as sex buddies but it doesn’t stay that way. The guy develops feelings first. Men can fall in love too but women also like sex. This causes conflict. She doesn’t want to ruin the situation. However eventually she realizes that she loves him too. I need to mention again like in the prior article, the movies I watched were heteronormative, a man and woman fall in love. Back to the article, the formula is reversed in who falls in love first. So that’s an improvement.


There are two more, one that’s really glaring and the other is odd. Their family life isn’t always bright and cheery when you take a closer look at their family situation. The glaring one was the successful sibling that has it all. They either are getting married or happily married already. This of course makes our lovers jealous and realize they need to find love to be a full, validated person. For example Josh Gad in Love and Other Drugs, he’s both the loser friend and successful sibling. Or the sibling can be super rich, like Josh Gad, because you can only be happy with you are rich and married. The odd theme I noticed was the guy has a strained and complicated relationship with his dad. It isn’t talked about and barely explained, if at all. It doesn’t go much beyond this.

dude and dad

So in modern Rom Coms, dudes and dads don’t get along, dude’s friends think commitment is for wimps, there is no such thing as too many montages (Love and Other Drugs has at least 5, it’s insane), and people be fuckin’.


Is the romance creepy at all?


Here’s the thing it isn’t. Maybe it’s because I’m comparing these films to films like The Apartment but dudes can be a little overbearing which is about it. The worst thing that happened in this regard is the guy shows up at her job unannounced a couple times but it’s discussed between them shortly after this. It is creepy behavior but at least he isn’t memorizing her address and social security number. You even get to see how they court each other from the female perspective, which is barely explored in the old films. So it isn’t that creepy really. Again, the dude can be a little overbearing but he is not a disgusting, grotesque monster in human flesh like C.C. Baxter.


Will there be a “Happily Ever After?”


It’s possible. They both appear to respect each other and treat each other like equals. This is better than say something like The Apartment. This probably taints my opinion of modern Rom Coms. There could be a “Happily Ever After,” but it depends on the specific situation.


In Review


The film I liked the most was Charade. I know it’s bizarre I picked one of the old ones. It manages to be part thrilling adventure and part Rom Com but balanced well. It did in fact have some not great aspects but it is tolerable and the overall movie is just a fun delight. Audrey Hepburn is great, Cary Grant is almost as good as her, but Walter Mathieu steals the show though.


The film I was most disappointed by was Silver Linings Playbook. It isn’t bad but it sure isn’t good. The performances were good enough but it managed to be boring. It’s just a meh, average movie. I’m probably not the right person for it.


The film I thought was complete garbage was…The Apartment. You know why.


In 50 years Rom Coms have really evolved. Unlike Dystopian Future movies, the differences are as clear as day. It’s really insane to see what was once considered romantic in mainstream films a mere 50 years ago. Women went from being the helpless victim to a real person and not a plot device. They are still portrayed in an unequal less dynamic way compared to men but things are looking much better than they were. They aren’t being kept in a stranger’s apartment anymore. They can be people and actual characters with agency. Up next, I will tackle another genre but that will be revealed in due time.

Spencer is a fiction writer that loves comedy, movies, old TV and movies, and other things most people don't care about.

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