Romanitic comedies are a dying genre, if not already dead. Just try to recall the last preview you’ve seen for one. A little hard to think that far back, right?
Maybe if you go back 5 years? Say 2009, which really wasn’t that long ago: The Proposal, He’s Just Not That Into You, It’s Complicated, Ghost’s of Christmas Past, these were just the peak of the rom-coms that flooded theaters that year. (Yes, sadly, the peak.)
With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, typically trailers for romantic comedies would be buzzing this time of year. Typically (5 years ago even) romantic comedies would be buzzing all year round.
Rom-coms used to be the go-to movie for a Friday night. The crappy movie you’d paid for even when you knew it would be lousy. The $5 dvd you wouldn’t give a second thought to grabbing and buying while checking out at Target. But cheesy hasn’t always been correlated to the rom-com, and there must've been something that kept us going back. There was a time when romantic comedies were loved for their depiction of boy meets girl, a battle of the sexes, or an hour and a half of witty banters. But such a demand has seemed to dissolve. Why is it one of cinema’s greatest treasures is seeing the last of its days? Could this be a good thing for the future of film?
The Atlantic’s Alexander Huls would say it’s a very good thing. In a recent post The Romantic Comedy is Dying, But Cinematic Romance is Thriving, he notes that 2013 barely produced a handful of lackluster rom-coms, but managed to create a fair amount of relatable and complex cinematic romances. The Spectacular Now, Before Midnight and Drinking Buddies were just a few he named that not only were a success (though I'd beg to differ) in branching out into this new modern romantic cinema, but carried an “unwillingness to sacrifice the realistic nuances and complexities of relationships.”
We certainly aren’t as patient an audience as we were in the 80‘s and 90‘s (which might say something about our relationships as well - or humanity as a whole). More genres than just romantic comedies could show you that. The days of When Harry Met Sally and Annie Hall are just simply unmatched when it comes to the magic of quick-witted, script-driven films. While Nora Ephron is no more, the likes of Woody Allen still flood our screens, so hopefully Midnight in Paris isn’t the last of it’s kind. If the talent isn’t to blame, our attention span may be.
Romantic films are becoming more in tune with our off-kilter love lives, and in some odd way we like for films to mirror our present state. Films like Silver Linings Playbook certainly broke new ground in a similar way. This dramedy, of very unstable characters in very unstable situations, was probably one of the most solid romances in 2012 - a new kind of romance for sure. No doubt this cinematic romance will have it’s hits and misses in the future just like romantic comedies. But it seems this great lack of quality romantic comedies story lines is more than the fact that we can’t relate, but don’t even attempt to produce relatable or substantial romantic comedies. Some may agree that this extinction of the rom-com will kill off the remaining unrealistic expectations it fills women with and failure it sets men up for, even though there will still be girls around the Nation who mark the beginning of Fall by watching DVDs of When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. The generation of us who grew up with Tom Hanks as our leading man, which fashioned great ideals and hopes, do realize with this shift in romantic films, what is idealistic may be rather unrealistic in this world. But at least Tom Hanks is still living and breathing. (Good luck killing off that ideal.)