I have a love/hate relationship with romantic comedies. Okay, it’s probably about 20% love and 80% hate. For example, I love everything about “When Harry Met Sally,” from the older couples discussing how they met to the conversations about women meowing to the filmmakers not realizing that The University of Chicago is not in Evanston. Then again, that film came out nearly 25 years ago. Somewhere around a bajillion romantic comedies (give or take) have come out since then, and most of them fall far short of Woody Allen or Nora Ephron. Hence that word hate I mentioned earlier.
To be clear, I’m not anti-romance or anti-happiness or even anti-schmaltz, but I’m strongly pro-originality. And that’s where romantic comedies (and the last two Die Hard movies) fall short. We all know what’s coming before the lights even go down, right? We meet two people, and their witty banter makes us laugh and smile and hope all at once. How can you not like these two?! Not to mention their quirky friends and/or relatives who always seem to provide comedic relief or unexpected wisdom! We watch the near kisses and beautiful excursions and grocery bags with baguettes poking out. But things just keep getting complicated, right? First, there’s a misunderstanding. Then, there’s another attractive love interest. Not to mention the argument that ends everything. I mean, are these two ever going to figure out they clearly belong together? Let me save you a couple hours and a couple bucks: yes…yes, they will. So romantic comedies almost always boil down to execution alone. In fact, making a romantic comedy is a lot like making a Fast & Furious movie, really. Same characters and plots and scenes every time…just a matter of sticking the landing.
Thus, when we recently watched “The 5 Year Engagement,” I had pretty reasonable expectations: I expected a few laughs, a few cute moments and hopefully some solid comedic acting. And it was thoroughly above average, which says something considering that most movies like this are – well – not. But the quote I’ll remember most is a throw-away line about 3/4 of the way through. THE guy’s talking with his parents about THE girl (names are irrelevant here, people…see paragraph 2), and his mom simply says this:
“Honey, we’re not even 60% right for each other, but he’s the love of my life.”
And just like that: the quintessential parent figure throws out the quintessential romantic comedy insight. The movie may not have surprised me that much, but clearly even formulaic caricatures have something to offer sometimes. “Honey, we’re not even 60% right for each other, but he’s the love of my life.” Yup. Pretty much.
You see, romantic comedy protagonists (guy, girl, you name it) inevitably learn that nobody’s perfect and no relationship’s perfect. And I may get tired of seeing that play out over and over again, but that does not make it any less true. My wife and I have not been married for 12 years because were 100% right for each other. And my grandparents were not married for 68 years because they were 100% right for each other. Nope. Relationships work for many many reasons, and this blog’s a testament to the fact that some of them are more understandable/controllable than others. Compatibility’s part of it, but Hollywood’s most predictable genre knew some time ago that other things mattered more. Love comes in unexpected places, and the decision to embrace it and defend it is a choice. Every time.
See? I don’t mind schmaltz. Just promise me that I’ll never have to watch “Serendipity”* again.
* No, really. I HATE “Serendipity.”