The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee recently wrote an article declaring that Brits have fallen out with the romantic comedy film genre. He raised some interesting points concerning the evolution of the British film industry and the types of films it has taken to producing. One of the biggest problems for the progression of the genre has been Hugh Grant’s success; no British knight has stepped forward to take up the mantle of the loveable, ‘mop-headed’ fool in love.
Growing up I found no end of rom coms to satisfy my need for a film to pick me up when I wanted to unwind. Recently, sat with some of my housemates and trying to pick a relaxing film to enjoy, we became a little stuck. Rooting round our DVD collections and online instant video services we came to a stop. Yes, there were lots of great recent films; 12 Years a Slave, The Great Gatsby and endless superhero films. There are moments when these films may be the right thing to watch, but it wasn’t right what we wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, these films are very good at what they do; they have points to raise, important stories to tell. They are thrilling, action-packed and high-end productions with special effects, CGI and stunt men. What did we end up watching after all that? Maid in Manhattan. A 2002 film starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes, where a maid tries on the dress of a rich woman and catches the attention of a man running for senate, they fall in love and you can probably predict how it ends. It’s hardly a complex plot or a sophisticated script. Indeed IMDB only gives it 5/10.
Predictable? Yes. Exactly what we wanted at that moment? Yes.
A little bit of research shows that the popular rom coms are starting to show their age: Love Actually is 12 years old, Bridget Jones’ Diary 14 years old and Notting Hill 16 years old. It’s fair to say they are hardly spring chickens. That doesn’t mean that they are any less worth watching of course. Rom coms are like a pair of comfortable slippers; you can leave them and come back to them at any time and they are still as relaxing, enjoyable and have that “pick you up” quality.
It is the feeling of air-headed silliness that we will miss if we don’t keep making romantic comedies or rather making them well. Lee’s article picked up on the lack of British films of this genre in particular; the Americans have tried to replicate our success with these films before realising that it was the goofy but loveable Brits that they liked in the first place. We need these fuzzy films. Not because we will learn something, nor that they will win many awards (although Renee Zellweger was nominated for an Oscar for Bridget Jones’ Diary), the critics will most probably hate them, regardless of quality. We should keep these films to lift us up in times of need, to cry over whilst in the midst of a break-up or to have that evening in with friends where we all laugh over how unrealistic that film was but cry as it ends happily. The government is on a drive to make us happy anyway, why shouldn’t it create a rom com department for the job.
Perhaps that is a step too far but my point still stands if we lose the rom com we lose the laughter, we lose the charm and we lose a significant part of late 90s/early 00s film history.
Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the end of the romantic comedy just yet.