Messy situations, broken hearts, lies and destiny are what brings two people together in romantic comedies — and it all happens within 90 minutes to two hours.
Audiences gulp this up both for better and for worse. No matter what you think, romantic comedies have been a mixture between box office hits, cheesy soulless movies made with no effort and surprisingly intelligent stories that go beneath the surface.
That’s why there are several subgenres inside this large overreaching genre, and with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, here are four subgenres to look at when watching movies this holiday.
The Cheesy Hallmark
Let’s start with the one that’s easy to make fun of. The Hallmark: the films so lame that you can write the script in two days and have the movie made a week later.
Imagine a woman heading back home for the holidays after leaving her ex and her busy corporate job. She heads to a Christmas party where she is introduced to a wealthy, handsome guy. But there is some small reason why they can’t be together, a reason so dumb that you wonder how both have made it through the world this long. The two wealthy individuals learn nothing besides the love that they were always going to share.
I won’t spend too much time describing characters and real story lines, because I just described at least twenty films. If you are interested in Hallmark movies you can look up, “The Lost Valentine,” “Crown Christmas” and “A Country Wedding.”
These are the not too cheesy romantic comedies that are supposed to have some level of substance, more so than the Hallmark flicks. The budgets are bigger, the directors are better, the actors are well-known and the writing is up in the air.
There are classics in the 95%, like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” There are goofy films like “The Wedding Singer” or “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” And, of course, there are the terrible films that force us to question if the genre should even exist with films like “The Sweetest Thing” and “The Ugly Truth.”
Honestly, the trailer for “Marry Me” made me question if I even want to make films. The one thing the 95% have in common is that two people meet, there is struggle — comedic and dramatic — and they end with a heartwarming kiss.
The 95% is the staple — the films that people will look back on when they think of the genre.
These are the romantic comedies that force you to question your own reality. The characters are fully formed, but they are quirky, weird and struggling over deep problems outside of just love.
These films are also indie darlings popular at film circuits across the country (good luck seeing them at your local theater). These films dig beneath the surface and are sometimes uncomfortable. They choose logical things like existential crises instead of the simple “love is destiny” trope.
The romance can be between a zombie and human, like in “Warm Bodies.” The film can be about two people erasing each other from their minds with a new technology like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Or the film can play into the POV of an anxious business owner who has seven sisters who bully him like “Punch Drunk Love.”
If you want to laugh, feel love and feel weird then this one’s for you.
This is the one that always annoys fans of romantic comedies. They go in to watch two people fall in love, and the two people don’t. They meet, fall in love and then fall out of love.
An early classic in this subgenre is Woody Allen’s classic film “Annie Hall.” In it the characters have instant chemistry, but due to strong personalities and two different life directions they break up and he turns their story into a play.
There’s the genre-blending musical in “La La Land,” a film so real that the ending doesn’t strike you as odd. “500 Days of Summer,” an indie classic, looks to just be one of those offbeat films for the sake of being offbeat until the second half rips your heart out when there is no chance the two will end up together.
Due to the movie business being a business, subversion rarely happens.
It does not matter what type of romantic comedy you enjoy, or even if you hate them, the one thing you can count on is that around this time of year, there will always be a new one on.