The Romantic Comedy As An Endangered Species: How Can The Romcom Genre Be Saved?

and 06.27.18 11 months ago 2 Comments

Netflix/Miramax/Uproxx

Fans and former fans of romantic comedies know damn well that Hollywood doesn’t make them like they used to. Whereas the genre used to be flush with idealistic offerings, back when the careers of Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts were riding high, the current supply hitting theaters has slowed to a trickle. How did this happen, and can anything be done to stop the downward slide?

Two UPROXX writers, Alyssa Fikse and Kimberly Ricci, debate the current state of the genre and whether it’s worth saving. Alyssa enters the discussion as a diehard romantic comedy fan who holds out hope for a return to form, whereas Kimberly would be perfectly fine fossilizing the genre as it stood back during the glorious 1990s, as a golden age for the genre, if you will. The following discussion searches for a knight dame in shining armor, which might be found in the most unlikely of places.

Kimberly: Romcoms are having a do-or-die moment, and I can’t help but sort-of blame the dearth of willing talent. Ever since Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn — wow, he’s the closest thing we had to a male rom-com lead for a few years — stopped doing them, things have been dire, and directors aren’t lining up either. Even Judd Apatow, who was cranking those puppies out, has lost interest. And studios seem fine with this. They’re thrilled to mostly make bazillion-dollar ensemble superhero movies or low-budget horror films, with precious little in between. Is there still room in people’s hearts for romcoms?

Alyssa: Yikes, is Vince Vaughn really our best option? Can’t we claim, like, Mark Ruffalo or Ryan Reynolds? Cusack? I am, admittedly, a pretty shameless romantic comedy fan, but even I can recognize the problems in the genre. However, I really think that we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this situation.

Kimberly: Ryan Reynolds … you got me there, and Fluffalo as well. I think part of the perception, though, is that brotastic romcoms kinda took over in terms of major box-office success. Jon Favreau and Judd Apatow created projects that dudes didn’t mind watching with their dates. So yeah, Vaughn and Seth Rogen were romcom kings, as weird as that sounds. We have to face that reality.

Alyssa: I like Seth Rogen, so I can accept that. I’m not quite sure what happened between Nora Ephron and whoever wrote something like Failure To Launch, but it’s safe to say that people got lazy. What once was charming and fun became formulaic and painful. There have been a few here and there that are fun and hearken back to an earlier era, but going back and rewatching most of what came out in the aughts is a practice in disappointment.

Still, at the same time, I always come back to this argument: there have been countless terrible action films made in that period, and they still keep making them. I don’t want to immediately throw out the “Hollywood doesn’t want to make movies that most appeal to women” argument, but why not? I’m throwing it out there. While there are plenty of women who enjoy an action film and men that enjoy romcoms, that outdated binary still exists.

Kimberly: Is the binary outdated, or are our expectations too high? I mean, the laziness on Failure To Launch was palpable, like someone figured that tossing Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey into a film would be good enough, no matter the script. And the Apatow trend led to studios shoveling several heaping servings of Katherine Heigl in the most formulaic stories possible. Moviegoers stopped paying for those tickets, but they’ll still show up to watch Liam Neeson in whatever formulaic action movie he’s doing. So maybe the problem is that audiences don’t care either. That’s disappointing … kind of?

Look, the last time I fell in love with a mainstream romcom was 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. And if I need to scratch that itch, there are indies to stream, and I can curl up with a box of wine, rather than buy a ticket and sit through several formulaic trailers. What I’m saying is that I’d be okay with burying the romcom as it exists now. Otherwise, things need to change because studios aren’t focusing on making female viewers happy unless they’re rebooting something like Oceans, which simply refashions male content through a female lens.

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