Romantic comedies are given a hard rep. True, it’s hard to completely trust a genre whose landmark films star Billy Crystal and Mel Gibson as successful womanizers, but (as I’ve previously written about here) there’s a joy in the formulaic nature of the genre. There’s rarely a twist ending with the genre as we know that boy and girl are going to get together, but it’s the meet cutes and the plot beats that hook us in. Plus, the conventions of the rom-com have taught many the savvy film viewer lessons in the mysterious art of lurve. Never idle, I’m compiled not just one, but two lists for you below, dear reader: I’ve noted down a few of my favourite rom-coms, (and also Chasing Amy and Gigli) and the many lessons that their protagonists have taught me. Maybe now we can finally start accepting our lord and saviour Nancy Meyers into our lives as the agony aunt and auteur that we need and deserve.
Something’s Gotta Give –
Something’s Gotta Give is not only one of the best romantic comedies ever made, but it’s probably one of the best films ever made. If I had a time machine, I’d turn back time just to give Diane Keaton an Oscar for this instead of Annie Hall, that’s how pitch perfect her performance in this is. Squaring off the neurotic Keaton with a sleezy but charming Jack Nicholson (and throwing Keanu Reeves as a modern-day James Stewart aka the NICEST GUY EVER) was a stroke of pure genius and it pays off in a film that’s filled with nuance, white turtlenecks and a genuinely really good jokes.
Lesson learned: Channel everything into writing. Do it whilst crying. Cry whilst wearing a sophisticated white turtleneck. Then when you’ve finished writing and crying, go out and get with a younger man.
Punch Drunk Love –
I am still mad at how Paul Thomas Anderson, the only white male auteurist bro I can never bring myself to truly hate, manages to pull off the weirdest romantic comedy ever getting made. Sadly, unlike There Will Be Blood it doesn’t contain an oiled-up Daniel Day-Lewis, (I’d drink his milkshake any day) but it does feature a career-best Adam Sandler, which is kind of the next best thing. Featuring a trio of evil brothers, a scheming phone sex line, chocolate pudding, horrible sisters and a harmonium, it’s a miracle that Sandler and Emily Watson’s relationship doesn’t get lose in the chaos, but it really is the jewel in what should be a crowning victory of PTA’s career.
Lesson Learned: Following someone to Hawaii on a quest of love is totally chill, guys.
My Best Friend’s Wedding:
I identify with Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding for two reasons – I have very wild curly hair, and I would almost definitely try and ruin a wedding. Not for love, I’m sure, but probably because the groom was a fuckboy, or because I was bored or something. My Best Friend’s Wedding is the Gone Girl of romantic comedies – Roberts’ character Julianne is absolutely dislikeable and you really shouldn’t want her to get away with all the misery she tries to inflict on Cameron Diaz to try and ruin her big day, but also, like… she’s kind of the best.
Lesson learned: Ruining weddings is fine too if you’re madly in love with the guy and he’s marrying Cameron Diaz.
Back before she was dropping truth bombs like “we’re all from Africa, guys!”, Meryl was doing the most in yet another peak Nancy Meyers rom-com, It’s Complicated, in which she accidently has an affair with her ex-husband, whilst also wooing her architect Steve Martin. Literally nothing about this should be compelling, but it’s a really really good film, and features a scene where Streep seduces Martin by whipping him up a late night dish of freshly baked croissants. Only in the world of master auteur Nancy Meyers.
Lesson learned: Cooking is the way to every man’s heart. Especially cooking in your large, white kitchen, complete with a necessary farmhouse sink.
The Sweetest Thing
This film is garbage. Hot, flaming, amazing garbage. Observe, sophisticated film viewers, the scene where Cameron Diaz has a sexual fantasy about a dude going down on her while she eats ice cream. The scene where Selma Blair gets her mouth attached to her lover’s piercing, um… down there, and her friends separate them by getting them to sing Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”. Bridesmaids may (rightly so) be noted as the film that reinvented the rom-com genre and gave women some balls, but The Sweetest Thing, whilst tacky as hell, wasn’t far behind.
Lesson Learned: Every modern, freewheelin’ kinda single gal should break into an impromptu musical number about penises at least once in her life!
As you may be able to tell from this list, I don’t really believe in the term “bad film”. But Gigli. Is. A. Really. Bad. Film. I often think of the hours of my life I could’ve spent, I don’t know… living, instead of watching a guido-esque idiotic Ben Affleck (still would) flex his muscles and try and seduce a “street-smart” lesbian Jennifer Lopez into falling in love with him. Watch anything other than this film. I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
Lesson Learned: Lesbians are very easy to convert with your wit and charm if you are Ben Affleck. (Gobble Gobble)
Okay, I’ll be honest here, I tried to watch this but Ben Affleck has a goatee and writes comic books so…. Nope.
Lesson Learned: see above.
The Best Man
The Best Man is problematic, I cannot deny. There’s no better indication of this than the “oh god when will this end”-long scene in which the film’s “boys” – Taye Diggs, Terrence Howards and Morris Chesnutt being among them – sit down to a poker game where they discuss all the flaws of each other’s “women”. Charming, really. But The Best Man is also kind of charming in a “this is wildly inappropriate” way, the scene in which Mercutio from Romeo + Juliet is bowled over by a stripper (Brenda from Scary Movie) talking about Audre Lorde to him. Fantastic electric slide scene though.
Lesson learned: Never be friends with Terrence Howard. Especially not if he plays guitar whilst doing creepy eyes.
Waiting to Exhale
The film that exists solely to make me shout “YAAAAASSSSSSS” whilst drinking a glass of wine. Angela Bassett is goals, Whoopi is troubled but will work it out in the end, and all the men in this are awful. Yassssss my sister, yassssss.
Men are the worst. It’s probably a good idea to burn all their worldly possessions whilst reciting a monologue and wearing a bomb-ass negligée.
How to Lose a Men in 10 Days
I’m going to put a statement out there: this film is the apex of Matthew McConaughey’s career. Battling Kate Hudson in a film with the flimsy premise that she’s trying to get him to dump her in 10 days while he’s trying to get her to fall madly in love with him, McConaughey combines the two greatest (and only, really) facets of his acting persona – charisma and a somewhat creepy, sleezy edge. We know, of course, how the film’s going to end, but there’s still a perverse pleasure in watching Kate Hudson emasculate McConaughey until he’s not feeling so alright (alright alright…).
Lesson Learned: The best way to reconcile a relationship is through singing Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” whilst tailoring the lyrics to be about all your partner’s faults, OBVIOUSLY.
What Women Want
My third Nancy Meyers on this list because, if you hadn’t already guessed… SHE IS AN AUTEUR. What Women Want is Meyers on an off-game, because in what world is Mel Gibson irresistible? I only hope that this film is actually a satire about how no woman in their right mind would want to touch Gibson with a bargepole. If you’ve watch the best Meyers and are after another taste of Caucasian opulence, this is for you, but Mel’s not got anything on the sheer charm of Diane Keaton or Meryl Streep.
Lesson Learned: Even when he can read women’s minds, Mel Gibson was, is, and forever will be a creep.
Words: Grace Barber-Plentie
Images: Raisa Yavneh