Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on April 18, 2010
I’d like to call your attention to a rather insidious thing that Hollywood has done in regards to romantic comedies. You know what they all have in common? They usually end with a wedding ceremony. And I think this is insidious precisely because most romantic comedies are aimed squarely at younger people who thus grow up with a false sense of marriage as providing that highly sought after “happy ending” that we all want from life. But the stubborn truth is that weddings are not endings, they are beginnings. And it’s not always going to be a romantic comedy, either. Sometimes, it’s going to seem more like an uncomfortable drama full of dysfunctional characters, something like, say, a Wes Anderson film – or a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Maybe sometimes it will turn into an experimental film, the kind where you don’t know which way is up and a backward talking midget suddenly reveals itself from behind a curtain to do a black-and-white dance sequence. Or it might even turn into a horror film. The point is: anything can happen.
That opening statement paraphrases part of my speech from last night’s toast to my sister and her new husband. I could easily have gone on in a longer rant about that subject, but in a moment of rare discretion I managed to bring my toast back to focus on the happy couple under the spotlight that was standing nervously next to me. I say “nervous” because I’ve been there and done that, but in my case the wedding turned into a Takashi Miike film. Specifically; Audition. The first half was surprisingly light-hearted, and aside for a few flags, it had all the makings of a delightful romp like, say, Masayuki Suo’s Shall We Dance? But then, in the last couple reels, things got very ugly and I found myself paralyzed and being stabbed by needles. This traumatizing experience means that I can be a bit of a loose cannon at weddings. I’m now the equivalent of that old-timer in horror films that usually pops up within the first ten minutes to tell the kids driving toward Camp Crystal Lake that “you’re all gonna die!”
I’m happy to report that I kept my inner crazy, drunk ol’ coot locked deep in the back of my mind and, instead, managed to behave appropriately. But it does bring me back to the point I was making about romantic comedies. Do they really all end with a wedding ceremony? I’ll admit to having really enjoyed Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air as a refreshing exception to the rule. An even better example would be Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, but in both cases I’m not even sure if you can really apply the “romantic comedy” moniker to them at all. It’s almost like, by definition, to be a romantic comedy you have to end with a wedding ceremony. But, heck, what do I know? As I recently told a fellow cinephile, the hole in my memory is the size of the Chicxulub Crater.
So… since I still have family in from out of state to entertain, and since anyone reading this is sure to have a better memory than mine, go ahead and send me any exceptions to the rule that you can think of. I’m genuinely curious. In the meantime, here are some stills from some popular romantic comedies that might possibly help jog your memory:
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