There’s something about rom coms that send a shiver down my spine in a way that horror films can never do. As the run of Halloween films draw to a close, we’ll be entering the next phase -the season of festive family-friendly feel-goods to warm the cockles of our hearts. But it’s the combo of rom coms laced with saccharine sentimentality that will have me hurling, and in the words of Giles Frazer yelping, “Happy Kitchmas”.
Looking back, early romantic comedies got the balance right with their use of romance, wit and warmth. For that we can thank Ernst Lubitsch and Frank Capra,
Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder and Richard Curtis.
In recent times, bar a few indie-romantic comedy exceptions – 500 days of Summer, Silver Lining Playbook, Moonrise Kingdom, we’ve had a glut of rom coms which have largely lost their way. Typically they are either characterised by too much comedy and not enough romance: Knocked Up, alternatively, too much weepie romance and not enough comedy: Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook and Dear John.
My biggest bugbear though are the repetitive formulas. They are clichéd and tired and often it’s the choice of famous names taking a leading role who save the day – a last ditch attempt to sustain audience attention no doubt.
One of the main staples of modern romantic comedies which could do with a new lease of life is the “meet-cute’’.
The term was initially used by script writers to describe the first encounter between the would-be romantic couple and was popularised by film critic Roger Ebert. Meetings are characterised by unusual, awkward or comedic circumstances. The device originated from 1930s films as a way to allow people from different classes/status to meet. It Happened One Night (1934) by Frank Capra starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable is regarded as the first meet-cute movie.
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