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Romantic comedies

Carrie Turek | Sunday, April 1, 2012

“I love that you get cold when it’s seventy-one degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich … and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.”

“When Harry Met Sally” is the quintessential, oh-so-quotable, feel-good flick. It captures Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in their prime, playing two unlikely best friends. It is a true romantic comedy classic. Men and women alike are familiar with the deli scene and Meg Ryan’s hairstyle transformation. It is a film that transcends the decades. But today, where have all the good rom-coms gone?

Despite their sometimes gapingly obvious lack of reality, romantic comedies are essential to female life. We know they are unrealistic and they capture only the most once-in-a-lifetime kind of moments. But it really comes down to stress relief and the need for optimism. What could go better with ice cream, pajamas and popcorn for those stay-in girls nights than movies like “Notting Hill,” “Pretty Woman,” “You’ve Got Mail” and “When Harry Met Sally”?

The problem, though, is that all four of these movies are at least 13 years old. Today, we can watch new “romantic comedies” but the humor and charm just doesn’t feel the same.

For example, just last week I watched “One Day” (with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess) for the first time.

I was excited to see this film. It looked promising and cute – a perfect weekend pick-me-up to be watched in the comfort of the dorm. The back of the DVD gave hope with critics’ acclaim as “a smart and endearing romantic comedy.”

The cover called it “an epic must-see romance.” Add in a European setting and cute accents, and I was sold. Sadly, though, this movie that I had half expected to add to my list of go-to romantic favorites didn’t make the cut.

Don’t get me wrong – it was well put together, well-cast and humorous at parts, but it surely should not have been classified as a romantic comedy.

My general rule has been that a “romantic comedy” should leave the viewer in a happy state, feeling better and more hopeful about life and the world. “One Day,” though dramatic and romantic, did not fulfill this expectation. The attempts to move away from the stand-by “When Harry Met Sally” were fruitless.

It seems that some movies are simply destined to last. “Pretty Woman” has released multiple anniversary editions. “Notting Hill” airs frequently as a romantic comedy special.

So what lessons can new films take from the older classics? Is it plotline? Actresses? Setting?

Maybe it’s simply time.

Perhaps all a good romantic comedy needs is a little space. Maybe we’ll look back ten years from now and suddenly appreciate the genius of “The Vow” or “Love and Other Drugs.” … or maybe we will simply be laughing again and again as Meg Ryan professes her tearful hatred of Billy Crystal.