The Rise and Fall of Romantic Comedies | Tarreyn Land: The Rise and Fall of Romantic Comedies

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Romantic Comedies

           Happy Valentine's Day! Today's topic is something very near and dear to my heart. - Romantic Comedies.
           I. LOVE. Romantic Comedies. I don't mind if they're predictable, I could care less if you have to totally suspend your disbelief or if they're super sappy. I DO care, however, if they aren't good. I care if the characters aren't well drawn, if they're trying too hard or if the wit is lacking. Unfortunately, these features are becoming extremely present more and more these days. As much as I hate to admit it, we are currently in a romantic comedy depression. 
           Liking to think of myself as an aficionado, an extreme romantic comedy expert, I have delineated here a thorough history about the ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, of the Romantic Comedy Genre.
           Widely noted as the first really great romantic comedy, Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp from 1915 paved the way for a genre that would not only help define popular culture, but my adolescence. After the Tramp fell in love, rom coms (note: I actually really dislike the rom. com abbreviation and would never say it in person, but for the sake of ease for this article bear with me..) took about another 15/20 years to develop into a fully gestated thing of beauty. The 1930s brought on some sweet and wonderful stuff like the Andy Hardy Movies, It Happened One Night, and Fred & Ginger, but the genre flourished even further in the 1940s and 50s. 
           With brilliant wit, unbeatable pairs, supremely drawn farcical situations, singing and dancing, slapstick and perfect chemistry, romantic comedies became a fully gestated thing of beauty. Stars took to the silver screen who embodied everything that a movie star should be. Style, class, terrific timing, they had it all. Stars like Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, (Who all team up for a stunning collaboration in one of my favorites The Philadelphia Storystarted popping up like wildflowers. Through the cheesecloth covered lenses, we began to fall in love with a genre all about falling in love. 
           In the 1950s everything that was awesome in the 30s and 40s got even more interesting because there started being more dimension in terms of subject matter. The studios' control was loosening and some really neat stuff started to happen. My prime example of this is Billy Wilder. Brilliant, amazing Billy Wilder. I could write for days about Some Like it Hot alone. But on top of that you have The Apartment, Irma LaDouce, Sabrina, The Seven Year Itch, Ninotchka, and Kiss Me, Stupid?!?! Seriously?! Genius. And that's only talking about his romantic comedies! If you don't know his work, look him up. You will NOT be disappointed. 
           Then the 1960s hit, and the beloved couples and farsical situations took a nose dive. With the exception of a couple Elvis movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Apartment, to name a few, the 60s were not power-packed with great romantic comedies. With a stronger focus on experimentation, and the development of new wave and other styles, romantic comedies fell to the wayside.
           The 70's weren't much better. In the late 1970s when Woody Allen became comedy king, more offbeat kinds of love stories like Annie Hall started to emerge, which began to get the ball rolling again.
           In the 1980s the hair was big and the romance bigger. While not having quite the perfection of the black and whites, there was still some new tubular stuff, including the avalanche of teen romantic comedies. With the domination of the Brat Pack, classics such as Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, and Say Anything swept the country. This got even better over the next 15 years with stuff like 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Can't Hardly Wait, and Empire Records (to name a few). The 80s also perpetuated the more offbeat characters that started in the 70s. Comedians like Billy Crystal and Steve Martin were suddenly leading men, and doors were opening for lots of different kinds of ingredients.
           And then there were the 90s. Aaahh the 90s. The age of Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, Hugh Grant, and the whole gaggle of rom com superstars. I like to think of the 90s as a romantic comedy renaissance. Lovable sidekicks, comical situations, wistful ingenues, sweeping romance, it all was back! Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend's Wedding, You've Got Mail, Runaway Bride, Blast From The Past, One Fine Day, Only You, over 280 Romantic Comedies are listed on Wikipedia's 1990s Rom Com list, and I just can't get enough. Thank you, 90s. 
           The 90s also gave way to a new British invasion - Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridgitte Jones' Diary, About a Boy, Notting Hill all came out and I LOVE them all! The Americans and the Brits formed a beautiful symbiotic relationship over the issue of Rom Coms, and it is one that benefited ALL of us...
           In my personal opinion, the final truly great romantic comedy that bookeneded this era was Love Actually in 2003. Movies bobbed along the waves for a while with blips like 13 Going On 30, The Holiday, and Garden State. But around 2008 things went from bad to worse. Not to say that there aren't good ones still coming out every now and then. And believe me - i see them ALL. I sat through the entirety of Accidental Husband.There's the occasional good one, I thought Crazy Stupid Love was super cute, and some stuff coming from the Judd Apatow camp like Forgetting Sarah Marshal and Knocked Up are great, but overall, the genre is suffering a drought. 
           But, I have faith that it will bounce back. It always does. Over the next 10 years there will be a return to the delectable romances we all love. But until then, we have the greats to turn to. Netflix will be the supplier for my addiction. I hope you have an excellent Valentine's Day and that your life is filled with true romance!    

Some Of My Favorites That I Didn't Mention
Bringing Up Baby           His Girl Friday                                 The Lady Eve
Singing in the Rain          Gentlemen Prefer Blondes            Adam's Rib
Roman Holiday                Runaway Bride                               One Fine Day 
The Princess Bride          French Kiss                                     Moonstruck
When Harry Met Sally    Only You                                         Legally Blonde
Shakespeare in Love       The Shop Around the Corner      The Wedding Singer
You've Got Mail              500 Days of Summer          How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
While you were sleeping   Forgetting Sarah Marshall         Amelie

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