The Mutations of the Rom-Com
Romantic Comedies have long followed a stringent formula. Guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl back again. Considering the number of movies following this routine in any given year, it’s not surprising that many resort to goofy gimmicks that range from the clever to the downright moronic. Regardless of how clever their gimmick is the formula has been refined down to the point of dullness. Some recent entries into the genre have now stripped out such unnecessary elements as characters, story or imagination and produced nothing more than short snippets of ideas they couldn’t be bothered sitting down to write.
It should also be noted at this point that all genres evolve and go through trends, such as the trend of bullet time action films following ‘The Matrix’ and Japanese style horror movies following ‘The Ring’. Whilst other genres have changed and adapted, rom-coms have stayed pretty much untouched for the past few decades – until now. Except it would be generous to call this change an evolution, so instead I’m calling it a mutation.
In a desperate attempt to separate themselves out from the crowd a number of romantic comedies have made it very clear that they are NOT your typical romantic comedy, usually by jumping up and down and shouting it in your face. This new breed of rom-coms attempt this shake up by pointedly addressing the rom-com formula and featuring characters who attempt to be the quirkiest, not-believing-in-love characters since the one that came out a month ago. Whilst a couple of low-key, indie productions were already spinning this angle, the real pioneer is ‘500 Days of Summer’, a movie that the studio openly admits to being the result for market research into ‘indie’ culture.
Banging on about ‘The Smiths’ and having crazy hobbies like ‘taking photos while jogging’ helped separate these characters about from the Meg Ryans and Julia Roberts we’d grown weary off, every off-the-wall character is such a carbon copy of the last that they’ve very quickly become the norm. Yes, these movies have made counter-culture the norm.
And to make them absolutely pointless, they always wind up following the same routine every other rom-com before them does. Eventually one or both of them come to understand the power of power and runs after them as they’re leaving the country to confess their feelings with a cornball speech that everyone has forgotten the moment they’ve left the cinema. At a point in cinema history when we could’ve seen a genuine shift in the way that humorous relationships can be portrayed on screen, the industry once again balks at the sight of unproven innovations and churns out the same formulaic nonsense again and again. Shine on you crazy diamond.