This is how rom-com works, the immortal movie genre we can not get enough of


Meg Ryan and Billy Cristal in When Harry Met Sally … (1989).

Would Sally still be with Harry? Director Rob Reiner says yes in this new book. It was he who breathed new life into the slightly drowsy genre of rom-com – the romantic comedy – with When Harry met Sally … He got help from the sophisticated script by journalist and author Nora Ephron, and of course from the top role with stand-up comedians Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, who has been described as the dream girl next door. Although the expectations of distributor Columbia Pictures were not exaggerated, the film became a hit among audiences and the press. We knew that. Now each studio would have its own hit rom-com.

How it all works is clearly explained in the recently published From Hollywood with Love by author Scott Meslow, cultural reporter by profession. He knows how to analyze the genre to the bone, just like the accompanying strategy of film studios. Good idea, it has never been done like this before, we mean it seriously, even though the visitor numbers over the decades gave every possible reason for it.

But first a little about the proven romcom format. How do we recognize it?

Test: If you were to cut the love story from an alleged rom-com, would you then be left with a full-fledged feature film?

A) If yes, then it’s more of a comedy with a romantic subplot. There is more to discuss or experience than all the fuss about love alone.

B) If not, then we are dealing with an unadulterated rom-com. Everything is in the service of the (false) movements of love, the rest is hardly relevant.

In case B), the film’s hidden agenda is to make the viewer laugh as often as they cry. That, and that it should be about ordinary people so that we can all identify with it.

With these iron laws in hand, Hollywood got started, sometimes to the point that it was cynical. First of all, there were the agents trying to get their newfound stars into advertised productions. It was hard, even in the actors’ guild itself. Mutual disagreements between ‘frenemies’ or ‘competitors’ like Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant result in creamy stories in the book.

Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend's Wedding (1997).  Picture

Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997).

And then there is the question of the test audience. Do not like the ending with a preview – as was the case My best friend’s wedding (1997, PJ Hogan), where the much-loved Julia Roberts turns out to be a bitch – a team of screenwriters will soon be set up to fix things. In this case, the invention uses BGF.

BGF? It stands for best gay friend† And so it went. Julia Roberts learns in the film that her great childhood sweetheart Michael (Dermot Mulroney) is to marry the eight year younger Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). She travels to Chicago to sabotage the wedding, but fails deeply. She eventually finds solace in George (Rupert Everett), her BGF. The film’s bouncer is to him: ‘Maybe it’s not going to be a wedding. Maybe no sex. But I do not have … where are we going to dance together! ‘

Keira Knightley in Love Actually (2003).  Picture

Keira Knightley in Love Actually (2003).

Yes, the test audience could live with that. Romcoms can also be about deep friendship. And then screenwriter Ronald Bass and his team of young, mostly female screenwriters – affectionately called The Ronettes, after the former girl band – managed to save themselves over time. With a worldwide gross of $ 300 million, the film became a monster hit.

“The problem,” says Ronald Bass, one of the many spokesmen in the book, “is that a test audience is often much more conservative than the authors. They certainly want to get off the beaten track with great finds, but that’s not something that is taken one, two, three ‘.

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (1990).  Picture

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (1990).

And it’s to blame beautiful woman (1990, Garry Marshall), also with Julia Roberts. Sought When Harry met Sally ..† still to a kind of realism, with beautiful woman that was replaced with the tone of a modern fairy tale. Billionaire (Richard Gere) rescues young prostitute (Julia Roberts). Yes, or vice versa. About the film, Meslow casually remarks in his book: “The first Disney movie where oral sex precedes the first kiss.” And it’s true, in the Disney studio there was a lot of division on the theme, but also there the screenwriters managed to fold the originally much more cruel script by JF Lawton. Worldwide revenue: $ 463 million.

Romcoms, no hold back as long as it was fantasy. Now also internationally. We got fragmented mosaic films with several stories like Actually love (2003, Richard Curtis) and its successful Dutch counterpart Everything is love (2007, director Joram Lürsen, script Kim van Kooten).

Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians (2018).  Picture

Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians (2018).

The next step was stories in which ethnicity played an important role: My big fat Greek wedding (2002, Joel Zwick) and recently Crazy rich Asians (2018, Jon M. Chu).

All possibilities were explored, but rom-coms did not want to be really surprising anymore. Because of their format thinking, they eventually got a bad name: boring, predictable, chewed up. Say in the Dutch case: another costor see: soon Soof 3

Lies Visschedijk in Soof 3 (2022).  Picture

Lies Visschedijk in Soof 3 (2022).

Could the genre still be shaken up? That surprised the Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) too. In 1998, they came up with this year’s summer hit: There’s something about Mary† Revenue: $ 370 million. A parade of flat, even flatter and flattest jokes. Cameron Diaz played Mary Jensen, the object of lust for the men in the film. Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans and American Football star Brett Favre are all vying for her favor.

Many complications and a bizarre incident with a dog later, Ben Stiller eventually gets the girl. We would say: this is a burlesque, a low-key comedy, a farce aimed at the big smile. In America it is called: nauseousa comedy in which the alleged good taste is lovingly undermined.

Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary (1998).  Picture

Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary (1998).

There are so many now disgustingmovies made – all with Melissa McCarthy up to The Hangover-series – that that revolution is also extinguished. But in his afterword, rom-com enthusiast Scott Meslow keeps the mood up. After first filing the genre thoroughly in 380 pages, he writes cheerfully: The death of ‘Room-com’ is grossly exaggerated. There will always be filmmakers who will tell a love story, actors who will play in it, and most importantly, audiences who will laugh and faint over it. True love of the genre. It just never ends. ‘

Scott Meslow: From Hollywood with love. HarperCollins; 432 pages; € 25.99.

From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the romantic comedy.  Picture

From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the romantic comedy.

Comeback of the rom-com queen

Great news in The Hollywood Reporterthis is how it was at least brought on May 3: the now 60-year-old Meg Ryan (When Harry met Sally …Sleepless in Seattle) returns in a rom-com for the first time in years, What happens later† Two old lovers meet by chance at a snow-covered airport. They remember the past, which is still a spark, but their memories of their common past turn out to be completely different. What now? Her opponent is David Duchovny (61, The X files), and Meg Ryan will instruct herself. To find external financiers, the project will be greatly appreciated at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. Romcom is expected in 2023.

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