We talk about chick flicks here periodically, and I’m usually the bearer of the bucket of cold water because I’m not a huge fan. Or the one I rave about is likely to be the one everyone else hates. But I saved an article called “A Guy’s Guide to Rom-Coms” from last Friday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune partly because I found Strib columnist Tom Horgen’s 11 picks worthy of discussion, but mainly because unprompted my husband said, “Hey, did you see this article? I think this guy’s got something here.” And that cowboy of mine is definitely not a big romantic comedy fan.
I realize not every chick flick is a romantic comedy, but chick flicks are all aimed at women, and I would say the basic theme is building relationships. Going out on a limb here, I think all rom-coms are chick flicks. Men regard them as chick flicks. So rom-coms are chick flicks that men might like. But which ones? The article is all about recent flicks, but for my money it’s still hard to beat some of the classics like “It Happened One Night” and any number of Tracy-Hepburn movies. Many of our novels certainly reflect the timeless appeal of those match-ups. But these days I generally wait for the rom-coms to come out on DVD if I see them at all. Horgen starts out by saying that the rom-com is “on life support” and pans recent releases “The Switch” with Jennifer Aniston and Drew Barrymore’s “Going the Distance.” I haven’t seen them. I’ve seen ads. Not interested. As often as not, Hollywood seems to hand a log line to couple of stars who have CHICK APPROVED stamped on their SAG cards and offer them a bunch of money. Script to follow. Maybe.
Romantic comedy is a popular genre, and every genre has its set of basic formulas. Nothing wrong with that. But listen up, Hollywood: We get tired of seeing the same actors playing the same stock characters in the same story with the same tired dialogue. Script, please.
Horgen claims that the contemporary rom-com took off with “When Harry Met Sally” (1989). He acknowledges the basics: unlikely pair finds irresistible attraction complicated by seemingly immovable obstacle, comedy spices things up at every turn, couple ends up together in one way or another. Then he picks his favorites, which he says “maximized the genre’s potential” from a guy’s point of view. Here are his picks. See what you think.
11. Return To Me (David Duchovny, Minnie Driver) His wife was killed in an accident. She’s the transplant recipient of his dead wife’s heart.
10. Notting Hill (Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant) She’s a big star. He’s an ordinary bookstore owner.
9. Maid In Manhattan (Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes) Classic Cinderella.
8. Shakespeare In Love (Gwenneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes) The young Bard meets his match.
7. Brown Sugar (Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan) Old friends rediscover each other. Note: Mos Def and Queen Latifah really do steal the show.
6. Chasing Amy (Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams) He’s a comic book artist, she’s not interested. Note: an indie that doesn’t fit the mold, but guys–my sons among them–really like this one.
5. Shall We Dance (the Japanese version) Married man secretly takes ballroom dance lessons from a bombshell.
4. High Fidelity (John Cusack, Jack Black, forgettable female) Record store owner breaking up with yet another girlfriend.
3. The American President (Michael Douglas, Annette Benning) President (single dad) falls for a lobbyist.
2. When Harry Met Sally (Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan) Will sex spoil a perfectly good friendship?
Horgen briefly explains his picks in the article. I haven’t seen all of them, but I think the choices are interesting. Do you agree? Any puzzlers? Is this a case of Mars/Venus? What was the last rom-com you and your date both truly enjoyed?
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