Monday, May 31, 2010
What happened to the Romantic Comedy? Part 2
What's happened to the RomCom is that there is no COMEDY.
How can a genre that has two genres in it be any good if the one part of the pair is lacking? Some could say, "well then it's just a romance" but a romance is an entirely different beast (Falling in Love, The Notebook). A Romantic Comedy has to balance those two tones and for some reason the comedy tends to always fall flat. And usually the comedy is trite, not organic to the story or the characters. One lingers/zingers thrown in for good measure that a character would NOT naturally say is the lazy way out. This lack of comedy tends to really be an issue for the female driven romantic comedy, and not so much for the ones starring Seth Rogen or Ben Stiller etc. It's as if women can't be funny, truly funny, and smart at the same time. Has the Women's Movement made us this dull and silly? Why can't female characters be funny and complex? Why can't these characters have edge? Sarcasm? We're either ditzy (Jessica Simpson in Blonde Ambition) or complete bitches (Sandra Bullock in The Proposal) where's the nuances that make a woman a woman? Where's the complexity? (post is interrupted. I shall return...)
I am back...
I enjoy slapstick. I really do. I think that's why I love Bridget Jones so much. She's deeply flawed, but genuine and smart in her own way. But not only is she witty and has dialogue that rings true, she also gets into physical comedy, which just turns this film up a notch. I think this film should be viewed by anyone who wants to write a romantic comedy, along with 40 Year old Virgin. Both films create comical characters with pitch perfect dialogue and visual action full of funny moments.
In male driven Romantic Comedies, there is a lot more physical humor, usually along the gross out/bodily function variety. For some reason, those films are allowed to go to that extreme. It seems to just not work for female driven ones (The Sweetest Thing) and I have to really ask myself why? Is it because we hold "women" to a higher standard? Is slapstick the lowest common denominator and better suited for male driven romcoms? Jack Black gets to be all physical in Shallow Hal as does Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly, and Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, while the female love interests are all relocated to straight (wo)man status. The calm to their storm. Reacting to these zany guys instead of taking action and being funny themselves. And being "quirky" isn't funny, and neither is owning a ferret.
Sometimes, what is funny on the page doesn't translate to the screen and vice versa. I've written romantic comedies where I think it looks funny on the page, but if someone reads it out loud it falls flat. Trying to "write" funny, in my experience, sometimes just makes it come out dull and "writerly" and by "writerly" I mean, it sounds like (me) the writer is "trying" to be funny instead of letting the character exist as they are and allowing for the breathing room so that they can BE funny.
As most of us know, comedy is subjective and is difficult to write or even watch without giving or having an opinion on it. Sometimes when the comedy in a romcom falls flat it's due to too many "cooks in the kitchen" giving their opinions on what is and isn't funny that before you know it, what's left for us to devour onscreen, is a mishmash of several different perspectives and writing styles. thus, diluting what was or is or once upon a time was funny.
I keep hoping that when I go to a RomCom that it'll be funny. That I'll laugh so hard my tummy will hurt, or tears will stream down my face and that by the end of the film, I'm in love with the romance. This doesn't happen often. In fact, rarely ever. For now, I judge RomComs by how many Laugh out Loud moments they give me. If I laugh 4 to 5 times then I consider the film to have done its job and I'm somewhat satisfied. Going in with no to low expectations is always a good thing. But am I selling the genre short? Shouldn't I be demanding more comedy in my Romantic Comedy? And should I not rest until I get it again? I say again because Bridget Jones gave that to me (its sequel did not!! Grrrrr. Waste of comedy potential gold, but I confess I still own the movie because I love the character so much). Maybe I should get off this site and get back to my Movie Magic and start the romantic comedy of the new generation :) Then again, I might just curl up on my couch and pop in While You Were Sleeping and eat chocolate. Who needs romance and comedy when I have cocoa in my belly?
Up Next...What Happened to the Romantic Comedy? The Career Cliché.