There has been a huge resurgence of interest in the romantic comedy – romcom – genre recently. And why wouldn’t there be? Romance and comedy are integral to real life and invariably go hand in hand. Frankly, the romcom has been around for a long, long time. Shakespeare was pretty good at it, Rock Hudson and Doris Day gave it a good shake and then the style wilted in the movies. It was arguably When Harry Met Sally, released in 1989, that launched the real emergence of the genre, often with a bit more of an edge.
There have been many attempts to apply formulae to romcom. Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh even did major research into the phenomenon. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy get’s girl back again is an oft recurring storyline. The good news is that there’s always a happy ending. And these movies are rarely made as chick flicks; there’s always something in there for everyone.
Let us know what you think.
10. F the Prom – 2017
Directed by: Benny Fine
Starring: Danielle Campbell, Joel Courtney, Madelaine Petsch
Running time: 1hr 32min
We had to start somewhere and the teenage prom is as good a place as any. F the prom is more com than rom and to drop the F bomb in a movie title is pretty brave stuff. It’s cliche ridden and had far more potential than it finally achieved. Watch the movie beyond the surface and you’ll find the issues of excessive popularity and bullying in high school being well explored. The prom is the condensation of years at school and often cements the memories that you take away. Give it a chance.
9. Ibiza – 2018
Directed by: Alex Richanbach
Starring: Gwen Elizabeth Duchon, Gillian Jacobs, Michaela Watkins
Running time: 1hr 34min
Ibiza is not only a romcom, it’s also a “summer” movie and the two go hand in hand nicely. Popping over to the party island of Ibiza in search of a DJ is completely normal behavior for 3 love lorn American girls and the end result is a lot of partying. This is not a deep and meaningful movie and it doesn’t pretend to be. The cast has a chemistry, the music is great and the location is perfect (even though it wasn’t actually filmed in Ibiza). Take it at face value and no more.
8. Rumor Has It – 2005
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Shirley MacLaine
Running time: 1hr 37min
Rob Reiner is a seasoned comedy director and the cast are seasoned comedy actors. And that’s what you get a seasoned romcom. The conceit that Annistons family inspired the Graduate is not too far fetched and generates the setting for plenty of situational comedy. Much of the writing is genuinely witty and the movie delivers many twists and turns. Having said that, Rumor Has It is not a complicated film and the pace is exactly right. This is well worth watching.
7. Some Kind of Beautiful – 2014
Directed by: Tom Vaughan
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba
Running time: 1hr 39min
Some Kind of Beautiful has a strong international cast. There is a certain amount of confusion over the title which, at some point, was changed to Lessons in Love – an odd move as there are least 6 other movies with the same title. And the change didn’t seem to make it to much of the marketing material. The actors deliver fine individual performances and these are what make the movie. The whole though is probably not as good as the sum of the parts. It boils down to some beautiful locations and a satirical look at the American way of life.
6. Larry Crowne – 2011
Directed by: Tom Hanks
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Sarah Mahoney
Running time: 1hr 38min
Larry Crowne was Tom Hanks second movie as writer/director/performer. Having had his life turned upside down because he doesn’t have a degree, Crowne goes back to college which is perfect forum for a bunch of outcasts, also-rans, misfits and wierdos. And it’s the overlarge characters in the movie that supply much of the comedy. Julia Roberts is the rom and she gives a typically strong performance as the disillusioned teacher. The decision to film in sepia tones is questionable but otherwise this is a functional movie.
5. The Decoy Bride – 2011
Directed by: Sheree Folkson
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve
Running time: 1hr 29min
At first glance, the plot summary might make you wince. A girl who gets married by mistake. Don’t be fooled. The Decoy Bride is a well written, well directed and well acted film that has all the elements of a good story properly told. Unusually for a movie set in Scotland, the dialects are rather good and easily listened to and understood. The elements of British farce are almost “Pythonesque” and we are drawn to the characters without any imposition of judgement. The Decoy Bride is worthy of multiple viewings.
4. No Reservations – 2007
Directed by: Scott Hicks
Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin
Running time: 1hr 44min
By now you’ll probably have twigged that romcoms are much about the situation as the story. Indeed, the situation invariable defines the story. In this case we’re in a restaurant; and boy has cooking been thrashed over the years. As with all better movies, the attention to detail is as important. Although you can’t taste it, the food looks right. Zeta-Jones has a depth of warmth that hasn’t always been evident in her work and the romantic relationship develops in a heart warming way.
3. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – 2003
Directed by: Donald Petrie
Starring: Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg
Running time: 1hr 56min
It’s interesting that a battle of the sexes scenario can product a romcom. But then these jokes and plots have been knocking about since the 1930s and never seem to fail. It’s tried and tested stuff. Of course, the secret of great comedy is timing and Hudson and McConaughey have this in abundance. Even though it was released back in 2003, it stands up well today and we hope the industry will continue to make this kind of movie. It’s such a pleasant change from contrived action thrillers and fantasy adventures. Breathe it in.
2. Bridget Jones Baby – 2016
Directed by: Sharon Maguire
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent
Running time: 1hr 58hr
It’s simply not true that the British have a stranglehold on romcoms. But they are very good at it. Bridget Jones Baby is the third in (so far) a trilogy that follow Bridget through a series of varying love interests. Some of the humor may seem awkward to American audiences but the vast majority of it is simply funny. Renée Zellweger anchors the movie in a seamless return 12 years after the Edge of Reason and is supported by a cast that includes the inimitable Emma Thompson. This is probably the conclusion to the series but don’t be surprised if another suddenly appears.
1. Love Actually – 2003
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson
Running time: 2hr 15min
We conclude with a quintesstially British movie. Eight loosely interwoven stories of couples, or pairs of people more accurately, in various states of relationship give more sitcom than romcom. But that doesn’t matter. This is a gentle, funny and clever movie that has an appeal to reach a far wider audience than aficionados of the romcom genre. By the way, did you know that the theory of movie making demands that a film which starts with a voice over should always end with a voice over? And there we go.