To love and cherish, forever and ever.

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!”

One of the most chilling "old coot telling people 'You're all going to die!' " scenes was delivered by Julian Beck in his final performance in Poltergeist II (he died of stomach cancer after shooting the film).

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:

20 Responses To love and cherish, forever and ever.
Posted By bidmyreno.com : April 18, 2010 3:44 pm

This phenomenon extends to ancient fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid… ad nauseum. We really haven’t come very far, but it’s escapist and formulaic for a reason: it comforts a large segment of the population.

But I’m with you on the “anything can happen” premise. It’s so hard to be surprised these days.

Posted By bidmyreno.com : April 18, 2010 3:44 pm

This phenomenon extends to ancient fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid… ad nauseum. We really haven’t come very far, but it’s escapist and formulaic for a reason: it comforts a large segment of the population.

But I’m with you on the “anything can happen” premise. It’s so hard to be surprised these days.

Posted By Patricia : April 18, 2010 6:48 pm

A neighbour remarked the other day that “Everyone wants to be married until they get married”. No. Wait. That wasn’t a neighbour – I think it was my husband.

I love “The Lady Eve” because it seems to me that Sturges is poking fun at every lie told and believed in the name of love and marriage.

However, I must admit to being a sucker for the clinch at the fadeout of all those Hollywood concoctions. I’m in Heaven if there’s a spectacular wedding gown involved

Posted By Patricia : April 18, 2010 6:48 pm

A neighbour remarked the other day that “Everyone wants to be married until they get married”. No. Wait. That wasn’t a neighbour – I think it was my husband.

I love “The Lady Eve” because it seems to me that Sturges is poking fun at every lie told and believed in the name of love and marriage.

However, I must admit to being a sucker for the clinch at the fadeout of all those Hollywood concoctions. I’m in Heaven if there’s a spectacular wedding gown involved

Posted By morlockjeff : April 18, 2010 7:57 pm

The endings of most romantic comedies are just act one. After that, Part two could become the Crispin Glover & Lea Thompson part of BACK TO THE FUTURE or the lovers of Roman Polanski’s BITTER MOON or WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? or the completely whammo end of youth, health and a future in the grim story of ETHAN FROME (great novel, unmemorable movie). Most moviegoers want to stop at act one and that’s ok because most of us know Act Two or Three is…well, the inevitable. It’s about the weight of the world and it’s toll on us…our fading youth and advancing infirmities, job worries, dealing with kids and parents, war, volcanic ash, do I really need an iPad? The big issues in life. So, excuse me while I go watch THE PALM BEACH STORY or DODSWORTH (ok, so it’s a not a romantic comedy but you just know they’re going to get married which is the same resolution to any sexy, exciting and interesting relationship in the end, yes?)

Posted By morlockjeff : April 18, 2010 7:57 pm

The endings of most romantic comedies are just act one. After that, Part two could become the Crispin Glover & Lea Thompson part of BACK TO THE FUTURE or the lovers of Roman Polanski’s BITTER MOON or WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? or the completely whammo end of youth, health and a future in the grim story of ETHAN FROME (great novel, unmemorable movie). Most moviegoers want to stop at act one and that’s ok because most of us know Act Two or Three is…well, the inevitable. It’s about the weight of the world and it’s toll on us…our fading youth and advancing infirmities, job worries, dealing with kids and parents, war, volcanic ash, do I really need an iPad? The big issues in life. So, excuse me while I go watch THE PALM BEACH STORY or DODSWORTH (ok, so it’s a not a romantic comedy but you just know they’re going to get married which is the same resolution to any sexy, exciting and interesting relationship in the end, yes?)

Posted By Jennifer Burnett : April 18, 2010 10:16 pm

In a world of harsh realities, what is wrong with a happy ending? I am a bit on the fence myself. In reality I feel on one hand people are expecting “happy endings” You know what I mean, those scenes at the end of movies which reflect the high point of a relationship. But the reality is, for me, the happy ending is like at the end of “Gone With the Wind”, when Scarlett declares after Rhett leaves, “Tomorrow is another day.” Real relationships take work and there is no happy ending, but a series of events which results in happiness. Knowing you are with someone who will ride the ups and downs of life with you is the happy ending, but shouldn’t look to Hollywood to define that
Isn’t it Hollywood’s responsibilities to provide not only an reflection on a reality we don’t all know (i.e., Slumdog Millionaire, or even as you noted, The Graduat) but an escape? I love that at the end of “Some Like it Hot” both Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis end up with the ones they love. “When Harry Met Sally’ shows the couple who have seen some harsh realities of relationships (“Hollywood” style”) ends up happy. The idea of a happy ending is in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t it putting too much stock in what Hollywood deems as happy?
I loved “Up in the Air” in part because we watched Ryan Bingham understand that he doesn’t want to be alone? While he doesn’t end up to with Alex, he ends up understanding that he is open to the idea of a relationship.
Happiness is up to the individual. I don’t feel it is up to Hollywood to determine what “Happiness” is, but rather reflect the possible journeys of the characters. Finding a companion to share the journey with is the real happiness.

Posted By Jennifer Burnett : April 18, 2010 10:16 pm

In a world of harsh realities, what is wrong with a happy ending? I am a bit on the fence myself. In reality I feel on one hand people are expecting “happy endings” You know what I mean, those scenes at the end of movies which reflect the high point of a relationship. But the reality is, for me, the happy ending is like at the end of “Gone With the Wind”, when Scarlett declares after Rhett leaves, “Tomorrow is another day.” Real relationships take work and there is no happy ending, but a series of events which results in happiness. Knowing you are with someone who will ride the ups and downs of life with you is the happy ending, but shouldn’t look to Hollywood to define that
Isn’t it Hollywood’s responsibilities to provide not only an reflection on a reality we don’t all know (i.e., Slumdog Millionaire, or even as you noted, The Graduat) but an escape? I love that at the end of “Some Like it Hot” both Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis end up with the ones they love. “When Harry Met Sally’ shows the couple who have seen some harsh realities of relationships (“Hollywood” style”) ends up happy. The idea of a happy ending is in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t it putting too much stock in what Hollywood deems as happy?
I loved “Up in the Air” in part because we watched Ryan Bingham understand that he doesn’t want to be alone? While he doesn’t end up to with Alex, he ends up understanding that he is open to the idea of a relationship.
Happiness is up to the individual. I don’t feel it is up to Hollywood to determine what “Happiness” is, but rather reflect the possible journeys of the characters. Finding a companion to share the journey with is the real happiness.

Posted By Keelsetter : April 19, 2010 12:41 am

1) Yup, I agree – fairy tales are key to the paradigm I mention. And, yes, absolutely; opium for the masses as well.

2) Partricia – you would have loved my sister’s wedding dress. It was tailored from two separate wedding dresses; my mothers and grandmothers, and tailored by a close relative who is also a famous designer. It was spectacular.

3) Jeff – you don’t need an iPad. My iPhone doesn’t even work as a phone anymore. Conversations are impossible on it and I pretty much just use it to text and email. I’d rather eat a bucket of Icelandic volcanic ash then upgrade to the next and new gadget.

Posted By Keelsetter : April 19, 2010 12:41 am

1) Yup, I agree – fairy tales are key to the paradigm I mention. And, yes, absolutely; opium for the masses as well.

2) Partricia – you would have loved my sister’s wedding dress. It was tailored from two separate wedding dresses; my mothers and grandmothers, and tailored by a close relative who is also a famous designer. It was spectacular.

3) Jeff – you don’t need an iPad. My iPhone doesn’t even work as a phone anymore. Conversations are impossible on it and I pretty much just use it to text and email. I’d rather eat a bucket of Icelandic volcanic ash then upgrade to the next and new gadget.

Posted By NCeddie : April 19, 2010 6:43 am

Oh well, If you feel a wedding conclusion to romantic comedies is sending out the wrong signals to young people, then give the engaged couples on your list a DVD double-feature– any romantic comedy paired with THE WAR OF THE ROSES(1989). That’ll show ‘em!

Posted By NCeddie : April 19, 2010 6:43 am

Oh well, If you feel a wedding conclusion to romantic comedies is sending out the wrong signals to young people, then give the engaged couples on your list a DVD double-feature– any romantic comedy paired with THE WAR OF THE ROSES(1989). That’ll show ‘em!

Posted By Jenni : April 21, 2010 12:51 am

Watched While You Were Sleeping with my 16 year old daughter this weekend. She’d not seen it before, and we both enjoyed it. Has the formulaic wedding ending shot, but so what? I’d much rather enjoy the escapism of the happy ending than the depressing endings some movies have.

Posted By Jenni : April 21, 2010 12:51 am

Watched While You Were Sleeping with my 16 year old daughter this weekend. She’d not seen it before, and we both enjoyed it. Has the formulaic wedding ending shot, but so what? I’d much rather enjoy the escapism of the happy ending than the depressing endings some movies have.

Posted By Bob Gutowski : April 23, 2010 4:59 pm

Hmm. I wonder – if REVOLUTIONARY ROAD had started with a wedding, would have been even more depressing (though fascinating)?

Posted By Bob Gutowski : April 23, 2010 4:59 pm

Hmm. I wonder – if REVOLUTIONARY ROAD had started with a wedding, would have been even more depressing (though fascinating)?

Posted By Bob Gutowski : April 23, 2010 5:00 pm

Hmm. I wonder – if REVOLUTIONARY ROAD had started with a wedding, would it have been even more depressing (though fascinating)?

Posted By Bob Gutowski : April 23, 2010 5:00 pm

Hmm. I wonder – if REVOLUTIONARY ROAD had started with a wedding, would it have been even more depressing (though fascinating)?

Posted By Courtney : April 27, 2010 4:11 pm

My Best Friend’s wedding ends with a wedding…but not between the characters you’d expect. That one always stands out in my mind. I heard the ending we get is not the original ending, either, that test audiences actually preferred Julia Roberts not getting the guy!

Posted By Courtney : April 27, 2010 4:11 pm

My Best Friend’s wedding ends with a wedding…but not between the characters you’d expect. That one always stands out in my mind. I heard the ending we get is not the original ending, either, that test audiences actually preferred Julia Roberts not getting the guy!

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