Movie I’ve Seen: The Trouble with Rom Coms. Oh, and a Good One.
Inspired by this article.
I guess I should preface this by saying that I’m not the romantic comedy type. Give me a super bloody epic crime film à la The Godfather or a very heavy drama like Closer, oh yeah, and some buffalo wings, and that would be my kind of movie night. This means I often find myself out of the loop when conversations about movies like Something Borrowed, Mamma Mia, and, I duno, Bride Wars come up. “Uh, yeah. I haven’t gotten around to seeing that.”
So here’s the issue I have with romantic comedies. The primary problem is that they come across as “dumbed-down” (I know, I know — you’ve already heard this) and for the most part, formulaic. More often than not, rom coms seem to follow the same, conventional pattern, and, yeah, it’s sort of reached the point of being tired and frustrating. So I don’t even try anymore. Usually.
This American (Western, possibly?) concept of romance portrayed in these “films” is weighted by cliché and, let’s be honest, a hell of a lot of delusion. For example, there’s that idea there is only one true love for you in the entire world, but never mind, because films like these make you believe that you will find him/her (I guess this is subjective. I just don’t believe in soul mates). Also, everything must end happily ever after, and no-one gives a you-know-what about what happens afterwards. Nevermind that the chick loses her entire identity to be with some guy — she’s found the one, so it’s OK. Never mind that successful relationships are the ones built on compromise, sacrifice, and a hell of a lot of clout after the initial passion wears off (I mean . . . I imagine, right?). Nope, rom coms aren’t interested in that, and neither are their fans, I’ve noticed — they want the assurance that everything will continue to be all right, for ever and ever.
Imagine my surprise when I fell head over heels for the seemingly rom com-like 500 Days of Summer trailer. “This seems promising,” I thought. ” . . . Two cute actors, atypical rom com soundtrack . . . And, what, it isn’t told in a linear fashion? Cool.” And yup, I loved it.
Let me tell you why.
The romantic comedies, well, all movies, that seem to work better are the more inventive ones . . . the ones that just make you feel differently than the norm. Most importantly, the characters must have problems, relationships, or scenarios that the viewers find easily relatable.
500 Days of Summer is a great example of the above. It tells the story in a non-linear style, like I said, it’s well-acted, and beautifully filmed (Bet you didn’t know it was set in Downtown LA. Crazy, right?). And it avoids cliché. It’s not afraid to deal with the anxiety and strife, the highs and lows, and it does not reinforce the negative stereotypes concerning the sexes in relationships. I swear, the main chick is not annoying. Again, crazy, right? And, at the same time, the film somehow manages to do all this and be hilarious.
It basically attacks the rules of your regular, ol’ run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. One thing I noticed: the dialogue is often about ideas, sort of like whether there is ever “the one” in love — the kind of stuff you and I talk about when we’re with close friends or, even, falling in love. Tom thinks through the highs and lows of the 500 days he has known Summer. He’s sort of talking to us — the same thing you and I would do when talking with a friend — telling him or her about the last real relationship you were in. The end is at the beginning, similar to the way we start reciting our own love stories — with the break-up. We also get that great sense of joy about the good times, as the film tries not to lie about the dark hours. In essence, it’s honest. And really, isn’t that what we all want from a movie?
No? OK, never mind. Forget what I said.
P.S. One last thing, we know this film isn’t your typical romantic comedy when it doesn’t end with a saccharine wedding scene. That’s right! Don’t think you’re in for one of those. Amazing, I know.