Someone Great Official Trailer / YouTube
Romantic comedy is not a genre beloved by women. Go ahead, survey a bunch of women. If my guess is correct, they’d be more likely to list drama, thriller, hell – superhero-action-film – than name-check romantic comedy. I certainly wouldn’t rank romantic comedy as my favourite film genre, if someone asked me.
Then again, if someone asked me how I rate When Harry met Sally, or 10 Things I Hate About You, or Clueless, I’d say something like ‘among the best films ever made’.
When done correctly, comedy and the pursuit of love make for some of ripest themes there are. When done incorrectly, they make for some of the rottenest. And it’s those rotten (lazy, patronising) examples of the genre that give romantic comedy such a bad rap. (Not to mention how anything coded as feminine is deemed embarrassing and ‘guilty’ – but that’s a whole other article.)
For a genre that’s supposed to serve women, romcoms have, historically, been relentlessly cruel to their audience. From the neurotic perfectionist to the lovelorn klutz, the portrayal of women in romcoms has, with some regularity, been shameful. And that’s a big part of why they died off. Where a Julia Roberts-type (read: mainstream, pretty, box-office draw) once had to peddle Runaway Brides and Best Friend’s Weddings and Notting Hills and Pretty Women before moving on to Oscar-winning fare, her modern-day equivalents (say, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, and Brie Larson) have barely stepped a toe in the romcom pond (and, unless you count a walk-on part in 13 Going on 30, Larson has never been near one). The romcom just isn’t the rite of passage it used to be.
Don’t get me wrong – it shouldn’t be. The Rooney Maras and Brie Larsons of the world should be able to carve out the dark and gritty career arcs they want – so too should actresses of colour, who haven’t typically been served by romcoms either. It’s just, it pays not to throw out the 10 Things I Hate About Yous with the 27 Dresses.
The romcom, and its ubiquity, has been through a death. That’s good. There were parts of the genre that needed to die. But there are certainly parts to be salvaged from the wreckage – and it’s no coincidence that women are doing the heavy lifting. Nor is it a coincidence that the ‘greatest romantic comedy of all time’, When Harry Met Sally, was written by a woman – the inimitable Nora Ephron. Women should be the ones writing and directing female-driven romcoms. And they are.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart (coming out on the 25th of July) has been described as ‘not just wonderful, but proudly fierce, fun … a feminist hurricane.’ Even more, it has 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Always Be My Maybe has 91%. Directed by Nahnatchka Khan, the film (finally) subverts the ‘career woman needs to stop being such a career woman’ trope and lets our heroine get her man without throwing her phone in a fountain. What’s with that shit, anyway? Sounds like something a man came up with.
Beyond Maybe, Netflix has been releasing a stream of women-run romcoms, including Set it Up directed by Claire Scanlon and Dumplin’ directed by Anne Fletcher.
My favourite of the lot is Someone Great, a film that has no right to be as good as it is. In my eyes, Someone Great is a spiritual cousin of When Harry Met Sally. Rather than the creation of a relationship, Someone Great tracks the disintegration of one. And I’d be remiss not to mention Crazy Rich Asians, the juggernaut that took home $355 million bucks – also co-written by a woman, but, even more importantly, starring an all-Asian cast.
These new romcoms, they’re diverse, they’re inclusive, and their heroines are as cool as the chicks I know in real life. It’s almost enough to make you believe in love again.Support Villainesse