One of the many cheesy lines from ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’ heads this blog post that seems pretty apt for both the subject matter of this post as well as the glorious British summertime weather we’re having!
Over at Inertia HQ (informally known as the spare room of Kris’ house), we’re developing a number of projects simultaneously in order to ensure that we have a breadth of work that shows our commitment and diversity. Amongst these, there are three ‘romantic comedies’ though we use the term lightly because they don’t exactly conform to the norm of the genre. During our research we got thinking about this genre, and after watching countless films it became pretty evident that these films don’t have a clue about how relationships really work. True, the point of some of them is pure escapism and is meant to make you feel good, but we’re of the mindset that if we’re watching a film about something that could happen in real life then it needs to have that grounding, that sense of reality. Sure we want the escapism sometimes, especially if we’ve just broken up with someone – but we also want to watch something that we can actually relate to, not something we’re never going to aspire to. Truth is no-one says ‘I love you’ after two weeks of meeting each other no matter what you go through. Most of the films we have watched are tripe and survive in the machinations of Hollywood based on two factors: the stars that will sell the films and the money they will make from them. It is such a safe genre but because it makes people feel good the staples of the genre can be welded into any story and people will come.
The thing is, it’s not like it’s a laughable genre to be in – huge stars commit themselves to sometimes shallow characters and base ideas. Some actors have even made their names in the genre, and this is why they continue to survive. They are a great genre that can sometimes result in some of the greatest films (Manhattan, Casablanca, Annie Hall) and some really great stories can come about as a result of the subject matter the genre deals with. Personally speaking, they are becoming contrived and even those that recognise it and try to make a postmodern romantic comedy seem to fall short. The most recent one we watched that fits that bill perfectly is ‘Friends With Benefits’ with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. It made a strong attempt to highlight the clichés of the genre by having the two main characters watch a romantic comedy film. Rather than watch a famous one, they were watching one that had been mocked up for the purpose of the film. It was funny and did outline the clichés that made you wonder why we all fall for this folly film after film. However, in the end the film fell short because it ended up caving in and using the very clichés that it was mocking early on in the film. Now personally we didn’t get the vibe that this was done intentionally by trying to say that a true love story flows no other way, but those in the real world know that it doesn’t flow like that.
Now avoiding the core elements of a romantic comedy would be ridiculous because then you wouldn’t have a romantic comedy no matter how else you want to label it – it’s like writing a horror film where the girl doesn’t go outside to investigate the source of the noise – yet reality has to play a certain role these days in order for us to continue watching. Relationships are so much different in this day and age, especially the gestation of one. Rather than getting someone’s number you just add them on Facebook. There’s no waiting a certain amount of days before calling them, you just write on their wall. All the mystery of getting to know someone can evaporate by reading their about me section and viewing their photos. A relationship status change is the true cementing of a relationship. There’s no avoiding some elements – location for example. It needs to be set in a busy, bustling city. It needs to reflect the pace of the characters lives. The characters’ occupation’s need to reflect the location they’re in. Though we don’t all live in a busy, bustling city like New York or Chicago or London, we need a lively location to compliment the pace of the film. But some expectations of the genre need to change and adapt.
For example, we need to throw out this fairytale romance bullshit because it does not happen anymore. No-one would say ‘You had me at hello’ or ‘I think I’d miss you even if we never met’ and we certainly wouldn’t make a grand speech in the middle of Times Square unless we were quoting directly from these movies. As much as the romanticism of these films makes it want to happen to us, especially women (and that’s not being sexist, that is just highlighting the core audience for these films), I’m sure if they were stood in Times Square getting this fed to them by a guy they’d be going, “Dude get the fuck up we’ll talk about it later, somewhere quieter!”. We need to add in the cynicism, the almost British sensibility. Recent comedies that have had romantic storylines have hit the nail on the head – Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, Wedding Crashers, (500) Days Of Summer – tend to focus on the cynicism involved with relationships, both beginning and ending, and are less about the ideological fairytale romance and more about the true reality of modern day relationships and attitudes towards sex. In fact, some of these films have not even mentioned the word love, they are more about the gestation of a relationship and what factors from the characters’ previous lives affect the couples’ initial development.
So, our plan is to try and bring something new to this genre with the ideas that we have. In no way are we trying to declare ourselves purveyors of this ‘new wave’ of romantic comedy, all we want to do is add a bit of reality to this genre and place the emphasis on the comedy that comes about as a result of the formation of a relationship and focus on the intricacies of the growth of a relationship – with added British cynicism. The ideas we have are varied and hopefully we’ll be able to encompass all of our ideas across the three. No Ordinary Thing (working title) sees an average Joe meet and fall for an up-and-coming popstar. The film concentrates on the formation of a relationship in the public eye and the pressures of trying to maintain a sense of normalcy when every move is being scrutinised. Gretna (working title) is about a couple already in love that defy their families by running away together to get married in Gretna Green. The film is set in the 1970’s and will be more of a romantic-road-trip-coming-of-age story (multi-hyphenate genre there). The third film does have a title but we are attempting to keep this one shrouded in mystery, based purely on the fact that the title alone gives a strong idea of the premise at hand and is one we are still puzzled as to why it hasn’t been done before. The film is our only one set in New York, with an Englishman as the main character. It is set over the course of one year and follows the main character breaking up from a long term relationship, with his friends taking advantage of his availability to their advantage. It concentrates on relationships and modern day attitudes towards sex and the dating scene. More information will be available about these ideas shortly on our website once it’s fully up and running, and of course we will utilise the blog to chart progress of these ideas as they come together.
As ever and as part of our research we would love any comments you may have in relation to romantic comedies and what you like and dislike about them. We are all the audience so it would be advantageous for us to know what you as a viewer likes to see.
Thanks for reading.