Saturday, January 4, 2020

What is a Romantic Comedy

Seeing as we have been discussing Romantic Comedies in this space lately, it has occurred to me that it might be useful to articulate what, exactly, a Romantic Comedy is.

It's a comedy, with romance!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh, we laugh, and laugh and laugh and laugh!, but in my regular, deep researches of the Internet for more Romantic Comedies (there are never enough!) that is precisely the definition, whether they'd admit or not, that most people are willing to go by. And the reluctant truth is that I understand. Does it raise my hackles a bit to see a relationship comedy like Annie Hall featured prominently on so many "Best Romantic Comedy" lists? Yes. But if I were putting together a list of the greatest 20 Romantic Comedies, after I'd plucked the super easy low hanging fruit of pure Romantic Comedies like French Kiss, Long Shot, Music and Lyrics, and Moonstruck, I would eventually start to come to movies I love that are portionally Romantic Comedies, that are like Romantic Comedies, that feature Romantic Comedies.

After all, most comedies have a romance. Nevertheless I'm afraid that does not make them Romantic Comedies, no matter how much I, or anyone else might love them.

That is why maybe, sometime, we should discuss here just what, exactly, a Romantic Comedy is. 

Oh, right, we are.

No, I didn't forget. I was just, you know, kidding.

Yes, I know it's super hard to tell. For me too.

So let's cut to the chase.

A Romantic Comedy is a humorous movie (comedy!) centered primarily and essentially on the happy coming together (romance!) of two decent (ultimately) and appealing (mostly) people.

That'll do.

Nevertheless there are more or less pure Romantic Comedies. The fabulous Notting Hill (more of that low hanging fruit) is a pure Romantic Comedy, steadfastly and thoroughly concerned with the romantic union of the characters played by Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. But what about the roughly as charming About Time or Morning Glory? Both of them center strongly on happy romances, but they're just a piece of the whole picture. The romances resolve early, run into some trouble, and resolve again, much like a pure Romantic Comedy, but they do it early. They aren't quite fully centered on that romance. The relationship takes a larger share of About Time, but it is as much a family comedy and drama as it is a Romantic Comedy. And Morning Glory is more of a workplace comedy, more concerned with the heroine's work success and her relationship with Harrison Ford as mentor/foil than with her romance with the guy who rowed, for Yale. I love those movies so I would feel a temptation to just toss them into my list of great Romantic Comedies. Because after all, these movies feel the same way as a Romantic Comedy does to me, and they do have a Romantic Comedy in them. 

But somehow I know it's not right.

Maybe this will help.

One more rule for an authentic Romantic Comedy: 

To truly qualify as a Romantic Comedy the penultimate, or ultimate scene has to be of the two main characters emotionally and dramatically getting together. 

How's that?

We can figure out how to squeeze My Big Fat Greek Wedding in later.

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