Friday, November 7, 2014


*I recently discovered this post in my unpublished archive, and figured now was as good a time as any to let it fly. Pardon the dated nature, as I actually saw Obvious Child back in June 2014!

Friendship, dating and romance have been on my mind a lot this week. I saw Obvious Child on Monday night, and all over the Internet, people are discussing the 25th anniversary of When Harry Met Sally. These romantic movies are wildly different, and stir up a lot of different questions in my mind about how much of a role Hollywood plays in shaping our expectations of men, women and how they relate to each other.

Now, I've always loved WHMS. It's an excellent rom-com, and one that has spurred many a real-life debate about whether or not men and women can actually be friends. It's my impression that the filmmakers answer the question by saying, "Yes they can, but friends can also fall in love." 

Movies of this genre (How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Sweet Home Alabama, et al) have a knack for over-simplifying some of the messiest, most complicated and layered experiences we have as humans, as well as the whole concept of a personality in general. But the formula is comforting, and when they are done right, it's hard to deny that we as viewers like to revel in the satisfaction of a "happily ever after" ending.

I just read a really excellent article from The Atlantic on the end of the rom-com genre, and how it's not necessarily a bad thing, since the "cinematic romance" itself is actually thriving thanks to unorthodox love stories like Her, Drinking Buddies and Blue is the Warmest Color.

I've seen all of these, and following my emotional reaction to Obvious Child, I'm inclined to agree with the article's author. I enjoyed the story of Her immensely, and marveled at the acting in Blue is the Warmest Color, but it was Drinking Buddies that most recently jolted me. The storyline was realistic and the ending wasn't neat and tidy. Any of us who have been part of a male-female friendship where one person is in a relationship can relate, and will probably have some stinging flashbacks—I know I did. 

For me, this movie sort of picked up where When Harry Met Sally left off. Drinking Buddies is as much about friendship as it is about romantic love, and manages to capture the layers and nuance of modern relationships that many traditional rom-coms tend to glaze over. Yes, men and women can be friends. Yes, attraction can f*ck it all up. No, people who make mistakes are not always redeemed and rewarded with their soul mate. 

And where Knocked Up left off, Obvious Child picks up the torch, illustrating a very different path for two unlikely lovers who come together thanks to a lot of alcohol. Both movies tap into a very real element of modern dating and "hook up culture" (if you want to call it that), and present a serious situation in a comic setting—primed to make our millennial generation laugh, cry, and perhaps weigh in on our nation's current state of birth control hysteria.

I won't deny my love for fairytale stories like Knotting Hill—but wasn't My Best Friend's Wedding such a better story, and funnier, too? I think we all benefit from a little escapism when it comes to the movies, but I also find it inspiring to know that accomplished filmmakers, too, understand the drama of an unanswered text.

What do you think about the current wave of more realistic movie romances? Do you prefer the simplified fairytale or a more complicated story?

1 comment:

  1. You bring up several very interesting points. There has been a definite shift within cinema towards depicting a more "realistic" version of the human experience. When you look at art, it's supposed to say as much about our current culture as, say, a newspaper would. I think it's very interesting that more and more movies (even within the comedy genre) are beginning to depict the complexity of human nature, as well as the failures of social ideals such as "love" and "happiness."

    At the same time though, I love to escape when I go to the movies. There are so many issues and scary things happening in the world, it's nice to take a break and forget it all for 90 minutes.