Wednesday, July 7, 2010
What Happened to the Romantic Comedy? Part 3
What Happened to the Romantic Comedy? The Career Cliché is what happened.
There are two issues that bother me when it comes to romantic comedy "jobs". They're either so clichéd and used over and over again falling into dumbed down boredom (Ad agency, PR, Fashion magazine), or so quirky and obscure that it's obvious a writer's device (Jennifer Lopez as a dog walker in Monster-in-Law).
I'm sick of romantic comedies where the B plot climax of a big presentation takes over and we're stuck with a montage leading up to the make or break deal. 13 going on 30 comes to mind.
It can sometimes be difficult for me to come up with a logical, fresh, and perhaps integral job my leads should have. I want to be unique without being so quirky that is borders on the ridiculous. How important is a lead's job to the story? It's important if it's something like The Wedding Planner (the job is right there in the title!) and it's important if it reveals character and where and who this person is in the present day. It should be subtle then, if not integral to actual plot point, because ultimately in a romantic comedy it's about the romance between two characters (or three). And that's where the focus needs to be. Sometimes the career cliché is used as a crutch to try to cover up lazy writing. Writing that hasn't been beated out enough. I think sometimes in the romantic comedy, if we distract the audience with career stuff, we can pretend that there really is a story that's fleshed out and expressing themes. That's hardly ever the case.
I love the film While you were Sleeping. Sandra Bullock plays Lucy, a gal who works for public transportation in a booth collecting tokens. Not even sure what her actual job title should be. Anyway, on first glance her job might fall into the quirky career category, but look closer and you'll find her job reveals much more. Lucy had to quit school and take care of her dad, and took a job to pay the bills, then her dad died, and she's just been sort of floating. Day dreaming in her booth about all the places she wants to travel to, but can't because she's in a booth, standing still, not catching the "subway" out of there, or anywhere. And it's through her job that the plot comes into play. Because of her job, she saves a man from certain death on the rails, which catapults her into the story, forcing her out of her booth and live her life.
My current romantic comedy that I'm revising with my producers has forced me to really think about their jobs. The first drafts, their jobs were more about a background, a sort of layering. But now, I've taken their jobs, given them new ones really, and they play more a role within the plot. Their jobs force them to have scenes together and they come about organically and logically now. Are they completely original jobs? No, and yes. One's been done before, and the other one has a fresher spin. But hopefully, since I worked on their bios and thought through how their careers will affect the A plot then it should all fall into place.
Here's hoping that my characters: Mary, Harry and Mike have onscreen careers that people can relate to in some way, but that it's just enough and doesn't distract from the actual story that I want to tell.