I’ve always found romantic films, and especially romantic-comedies, to be the weakest of the movie genres. It’s formulaic, it is ridiculous many times, and usually inconceivable that one character would actually be interested in the other (Because, let’s be honest, in every romantic film one of the leads is a jerk that doesn’t really deserve the attention of the other).
When I first started writing screenplays, I really wanted to fix this genre; expose it for all its weaknesses. I created a serious romantic comedy, a silly romantic comedy, an experimental romantic comedy, and even a musical romantic comedy. Suffice to say, none of them got made, so they are now all enjoying a very nice home on a burned CD someplace in my house. Was it because I wanted to avoid all the formula gimmicks that they met their demise? For example, the chase at the end to prove the love, the annoying supporting characters (Don’t get me started on Love Actually and the mind-blowingly dumb storyline of the waiter that comes to America looking for love), etc. Who knows?
Well, I could go on and on and speculate on why they are still around (Let’s all agree on a lack of dumb luck they are still only on paper), but instead here are my favorite films about love.
There is not one Nora Ephron film listed… Not a one. Oh, and no reference to Titanic either (I mean, she seriously dropped him like a load of potatoes the second he died in the cold water, didn’t she?).
Easily my favorite film, and every time I watch a documentary on it I am always floored by how lucky we are that we ended up with the film that we did. The script was in flux until almost the last day of filming; not even Ingrid Bergman had an idea who her character (Ilsa) would end up with! Heck, some of the best lines were improved by Bogart.
Yet, it all meshes together perfectly. If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it…. Hell, speaking for all film lovers everywhere, we would ALL like you to see it.
I discussed this film in a previous post, but it is one of my favorite films and a script I wish I wrote. There is something daring about it, even though it all feels so very, very nice (which it really isn’t). What I love is that you assume that the male (being a dude) is coming from a point of power, but he isn’t. He is completely at the whim of the women in the film. And when the final scene plays out, you can’t help but wonder if it could have ended any other way for the male lead, and does it really matter. He was a pawn from beginning to end, he just never realized it. Through all this it still feels romantic.
It Happened One Night
This is, in my opinion, the first great romantic-comedy. The first time I watched it I was floored by the script in the film. As a writer, I want to note the great scene on the bus. For some reason, I just love the writing and directing around this scene. Oh, this movie is filled with great moments (and I don’t want to say more about it since it might ruin the film), but this one does it for me. Also, for film historians, you can’t help but notice all of the films and plot devices that have been stolen from this one. It is the granddaddy of romantic comedies. Forget Gone With The Wind, this is Clark Gable’s best movie.
Not. At. All.
She is a nice actress granted, but there is a lot about this film I love. I love the visual tricks, the narration, the twists in the story… Oh, fine… Audrey Tautou is pretty awesome in it as well.
Whatever the case, there is enough “new” in this film and how it is delivered to surprise anyone needing to pick out a romantic comedy to watch.
Oh, it is funny, but it is about a relationship that is ending told through reflection.
Probably one of Woody Allen’s best movies (I lean towards The Purple Rose of Cairo and Radio Days as his best), this one, like Amelie, really experiments with the “reality” of a filmed story.
As Good As It Gets
I totally dig the wickedness of this script. I love the character development around each of the characters. I like it so much I don’t even begrudge it the character of a parent (i.e., wiser elder) that explains the obvious to their grown child… C’mon that is a formula standard for these films! Too easy, writers, too easy…
Still Nicholson is a lot of fun to watch and it has a lot of great moments in it.
The African Queen
Yes, I already have Bogart on the list, but this is a couple really that should be thinking of survival as compared to wooing. I must admit, the first time I saw it, I thought it might end dark. I mean, this is a John Houston film, not exactly a director known for avoiding a dark story direction (Heck, even his version of Annie seems too dark and wrong for a kid’s musical… Correction- it is too dark and wrong for a kid’s musical).
Much Ado About Nothing
My one Shakespeare reference (I’m allowed one). It’s still surprising to me that Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson aren’t still happily married. Look at them in this film! How could they not be still in love?
I love the atmosphere, the comedy, the use of music… Even though, I must admit, each time I show the film to people I have to explain that Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves are related. It does make one wonder what the casting director was thinking… or what Branagh was thinking in regards to Reeves doing Shakespeare in the first place.
The Philadelphia Story
How many romantic films destroys a wedding and then successfully explains the bride marrying someone else within the same day. OK, never would happen in real life?
Of course. But in this film, in this universe, it all makes sense. Only in the movies…