J. Schmidt

It had to be you. (Ending theme from the best romantic comedy in history, just FYI.) It is that mystifying idea of predestined love and the finding of an unconventional soul mate that is missing from the modern romantic comedy. It is possibly due to the fact  that an open, honest and addictive love for Disney films is allowed for grown adults (I mean, I saw Frozen, I have no shame in that.) A couple of animated characters and a beautiful soundtrack by Alan Menken make a safe space where cynics can feel like romantics. Aside from Disney, romantic comedy has shriveled into ABC Family Original Movies and a spluttering of Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl films that are an absolute insult to classics.

We live in interesting times, my friends. We have sene the rise of unnecessarily splitting films into two or three parts and the decline of the once well-loved romantic comedy. Love stories nowadays include unreasonably angsty teens and, most unfortunately, fashionable vampires. And I can fall to my knees, raise my fists to the heavens, and ask: WHY?! Rather than keeping to the traditional recipe of the romantic comedy, writers and directors leap off-book (or in-book, since all that hits both big screen and small are novel interpretations, but that’s a separate rant). These cinematic tangents often result in a cringe-worthy collection of clichés, bad music, and Matthew McConaughey.

Today’s chick flicks have been overtaken by legions of leading ladies such as Katherine Heigl, Malin Akerman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Kristen Bell, versus pretty-faced leading men that the likes of Ryan Gosling would not touch with a twelve-foot pole. These actresses play pretty girls who just so happen to be unlovable, nervous wrecks that lose the purity of Meg Ryan’s neuroses because they are simply too pretty to be believable; there is no reality to their roles. Their hair and make-up always looks perfect when they wake up in the morning—whereas women in real life are about as graceful and naturally glamorous as manatees waking up on dry land with leftover eyeliner in the fashion of a raccoon mask, and hair that makes one look as if they’d been electrified. Dear producers, if you want to claim your rom-com has some realism to it, add a dose of genuine ugly. (I’m not saying cast a gorgon as your leading lady, but she’s a girl next door, not a Victoria’s Secret model.) MOVING ON.

27 Dresses, directed by Anne Fletcher, is the perfect example of the current cliché. Katherine Heigl stars as plain Jane: a grown woman who has spent her life bending over backwards to take care of everyone but herself, cannot say no to anyone, and is your basic doormat. (Embraced the mantra: always the bridesmaid, never the bride.) Names in chick flicks are determinedly plain to reinforce the fact that this character is your basic “girl next door.” These are self-sufficient women who are not looking for their other half; they are doing just fine without love, thank you very much. Life decides to turn around and punch Jane in the face when her extrovert, publicist sister, Tess, comes home and gets engaged to Jane’s boss, George, who Jane had been secretly and desperately in love with for the past few years. Fear not, audience, Jane learns to stand up for herself and find some love along the way. (Don’t act so surprised, you know what genre you’re reading about.)

The saving graces to this film— Performances were well done, James Marsden and Katherine Heigl brought some life to a dull, cookie-cutter set of characters. James Marsden is enchanting as the bitter news writer who keeps trying to poke holes in Jane’s love for weddings and her sense of duty. While in real life, his actions would be considered stalking… actually, even in the film he basically stalks her for a while… but he makes up for it in the end. Judy Greer plays the perfect best friend, sassy enough to make up for pitifully predictable Jane. Additionally, the film’s soundtrack is a good standard for romantic comedies, it’s a lot of light hearted songs by Michael Buble, Corinne Bailey Rae and Natasha Bedingfield.

Why this film is not worth it—

Reason 1) Each catchphrase or single word uttered is enunciated with far too much derision or excitement: “URGH! Oh. My. God.

Reason 2) Cliches fill this story to the absolute brim, with gimmicks falling out on every side. Katherine Heigl as an ugly duckling, senseless declarations of love, brainless blonde, pining secret love, tacky bridesmaid dresses…

Reason 3) If you did a shot every time they used the word “cynical,” you would be drunk, but probably not that happy about it since it means you watched this movie in its entirety.

Best quote: “I feel like I found out my favorite love song was written about a sandwich.”

Every blue moon, Jennifer Lopez gives acting a go, and every blue moon, I think ehhhh, maybe you shouldn’t have. Unfortunately for the realm of chick flicks, Maid in Manhattan exists. Premise: Lopez plays a shy single mother who works as a maid in a swanky hotel. She is so lowly that none of the well-to-do guests acknowledge her, and ends up playing errand girl for a snobby blonde in need of panty hose. Egged on by her horny friend and fellow maid, Steph, Marisa (Lopez), tries on some of snooty-mc-snob’s luxurious, designer clothes and accessories. While in accidental disguise, she runs into state assemblyman Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes). He falls in love with her, classic case of mistaken identity; she dresses up in a ball-gown, yadda yadda.

The saving graces to this film— Stanley Tucci (that bald, snarky movie god) and the late Natasha Richardson. Richardson plays a shallow airhead but she is somehow still entirely loveable as the antagonist against Marisa and Christopher’s budding love.

Why this film is not worth it– 

Reason 1) It tries too hard to bring attention to the lower classes of New York and their hardships and their efforts to represent ethnic groups seemed more offensive than anything else. Lopez’s character of Marisa Ventura is quiet as a mouse and cool, calm, and collected; and then out of nowhere she busts out an overtly Latina attitude and rips Marshall a new one.

Reason 2) Ralph Fiennes plays an American wannabe senator with an American accent and a dog named Rufus. Yeesh. Fiennes seems like a nice guy, but his character is weak. It is physically painful to watch him try to be in love with JLo. He does not recognize Marisa if she is wearing her maid uniform, and his romantic lines come out as perverse comments. (Plus, Lord Voldemort being a love interest for anyone aside from Bellatrix Lestrange is unnatural. 

Reason 3) The seamstress. Marisa drops her son off with the hotel’s seamstress as a babysitter while she works upstairs, and as she talks to the kid it takes her half an hour to sew on a button: One button, sewn with grand, sweeping arm movements; a task that would have taken a matter of minutes if she had gone at a pace faster than a tortoise in quicksand.

Best quote: “…Although we serve them, we are not their servants.”

Whatever happened to getting cozy with a feel-good movie you know won’t disappoint?

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a heated battle of which film was better: When Harry Met Sally or You’ve Got Mail. They are both fabulous films that feature a cute and quirky Meg Ryan, who put her claim on being awkwardly adorable back in 1989, before it became a shtick. (Granted, actresses such as Zooey Deschanel (sp) and Anne Hathaway—holler for The Princess Diaries— are well known for pulling off the quirk characteristic, and Jennifer Lawrence has put a brand new spin on lovably odd.) Both films also feature montages as a recap tool, and I am a sucker for a good montage reminding the audience of a film’s highlights set to music. What’s not to love in this scenario? It has withstood the test of time. Rock on, movie montage, rock on.

You’ve Got Mail is the phenomenal film adapted from The Shop Around the Corner (1940) with Jimmy Stewart. This 1998 film stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, and is directed by Nora Ephron, queen of the romantic comedy. The film’s introduction is charmingly set up like the start up of an old PC, narrated by the modem and dial up tones. The lives of Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox and Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly are nearly intertwined from the very beginning, as they almost cross paths on their morning commutes to work. When their significant others are otherwise occupied with their own jobs, both Fox and Kelly bounce to their computers and check their e-mail. (Yes, that’s right. Tom Hanks bounces over to his computer. It’s rather adorable.) While neither of them is aware of this, their online pen pal is actually their business rival; as Joe Fox and his dynastic book superstore business tries to bump out Kathleen Kelly’s family bookstore, Shop Around the Corner. Each snippet of text in the twosome’s e-mails hold intimate meanings for the omniscient audience as Fox and Kelly unknowingly fall in love with each other’s words.

The flaw in this film—Fox Books is the evil corporate figurehead in You’ve Got Mail, but who can honestly believe that Tom Hanks is the bad guy? Also, the final love song is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” They could have done better.

Why this film is totally worth it—

Reason 1) Meg Ryan’s cardigan collection.

Reason 2) Ryan possesses a genuine vulnerability as she defends her shop, and Hanks plays off of both her feisty fits of defiance as well as her cheeky happiness with ease. Their chemistry is natural and while their romance is not as heated as their corporate-level feuds, their love is sweet. You’ve Got Mail is an all around feel-good movie that feels like fifteen minutes instead of about two hours.

Reason 3) The scene when Fox exits The Shop Around the Corner and nearly slams a goldfish in the door was entirely unscripted, which means that his line and the cast’s reaction was ad-libbed. Cinematic gold.

Best quote: “Well, as far as I’m concerned, the Internet is just another way of being rejected by women.”

And now, ladies and gents: drumroll please! Bdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdummmm:

When Harry Met Sally, brilliantly created in 1989 by Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron, is the ultimate classic when it comes to romantic comedies. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan play Harry and Sally, respectively, who grow to be best friends over many years, and teeter into love even though they fear that sex would ruin their friendship. Sally’s life is structured; there is no eating between meals, she breaks down the drive from Chicago to New York (where she and Harry first get to know each other) into shifts divided by the hour, and she’s very big on having things “on the side.” Harry is proud of his dark side, thinking about death for hours and reading the last page of a book first (blasphemy!) in case he dies before he finishes reading it. Harry goes on logical tornados that wind over and around each other and then back again until all you can do is laugh because your brain has been desperately confused.

Opposites who start out hating each other, Harry and Sally’s lives keep getting thrown together over decades, and they decide to become friends. Their other friends don’t understand that relationship; an easy and intimate friendship where they bicker 90% of the time that they spend together and they still enjoy each other’s company.

The flaw in this film—we witness Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby in leggings.

Why this film is totally worth it—

Reason 1) Meg Ryan’s hair.

Reason 2) Forget the hair, what about the shorts?? (And by shorts, I mean they would be a normal-length pant if the waistline hadn’t been yanked up to the breastbone…)

Reason 3) The elderly couples who break up Harry and Sally’s storyline with stories of how they met and married. The very first couple has the husband narrating the tale, “…Two weeks later we were married. And over fifty years later we’re still married.” A mute touch of her hand on his arm is all we need to know. These small touches are heartwarming and add to the sweet sincerity of the film.

Reason 4) It takes you by surprise how you suddenly realize Billy Crystal can be a very sexy man.

Best quote: (aside from ALL OF THEM) “You look like a normal person but in reality you are the angel of death.”

Romantic comedies are supposed to lift sad earth-dwellers out of their doldrums and give them hope out of random circumstance. While every once in a very long while a quality chick flick emerges, my vote is that we leave it to the pro’s. It’s time for some chocolate, some wine, and some Nora Ephron movies.

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