Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Writing, reading, watching, listening.
Life In : Recommendations, my own creations, and a place for a conversation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do we need Romantic Comedies about 40+ people? And...Romantic Comedies?

The bigger question is not if we need romantic comedies about older people, which is a matter of age, but if we need romantic comedies at all…In that case we speak the genre.
 I’d like to speak about genre AND age, although when the film is what Brazilians call “sugared water” it’s not interesting no matter what age it covers or what genre it is.
 You may enjoy most contemporary “rom-com” if you love a spark between two people, then a parental or ex’s or society’s disapproval, or, alternatively, a misunderstanding, and after a bit of a mess a happy ending, you are going to enjoy yourself in most romantic comedies. But I want my water pure and my romantic comedies smart and funny.
Despite past disappointments, I watched the film Words and Pictures (2013). I couldn't resist the cast, especially Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen. If there was any chance I'd enjoy a romantic comedy it would have been one with them. Also, it was about people who are over 40. The Director, Fred Schepisi and the writer, Gerald Di Pego have done interesting work in the past.
Another chance to enjoy a movie of this kind: if it didn't take itself seriously.
Well, I didn't enjoy it very much.
Some parts were better than others. The idea of aged and imperfect lovers is cool. But...Well, the story goes like this: an alcoholic poet and teacher Jack Marcus is testing his relationships and losing his credibility. His bitterness emerges everywhere including the classroom.
A debilitated with rheumatism, painter and teacher Dina Delsanto comes to the little town college due to her worsening state of health. She is a rigid but excellent teacher.
They meet. One brings words, the other pictures, and through their students, who become better people thanks to it, they compete and tease and flirt and do what people do in a romantic comedy.
I think that because it was about 40+ aged people I was hoping for more depth and subtlety, and better humor.
My wise friends,  who understand cinema and read a lot and create their own stories, books, scripts and plays expressed their opinions, and I’m proudly quote them here.

Andrew Tibbett, for instance says: I like that cast and that director a lot. It's too bad the film couldn't find a better spin on the genre. I like that cast and that director a lot. It's too bad the film couldn't find a better spin on the genre.
Younger romcoms seem more willing to be funny. The older ones with Diane Keaten and Merle Streep and the like appear to take themselves too seriously. As you say, if ever a genre needed to NOT take itself seriously its this one.
Since loads of marriages are falling apart, I think older people are out there romancing and so it's a good idea to make films about that. But how to do it? Maybe it might work to go the complete other direction: very serious, like Hanke's Amour? Hardly a romcom, but...
The specific trouble with older love is that people are more set in their ways, more battle-scarred so it's harder to give yourself. Perhaps that's the route to explore. I like the new sitcom "You're the Worst". It's not about older people, but it is about cranky cranky cranky people who really DO NOT want to be in a lovely dove relationship and yet that is what happens to them. So, perhaps the older folks should resist more and fail more. That might be a better vein for comedy.It's almost if the romantic comedies de nos jours had been processed through TV and sitcoms.

Jonas Knutsson says: One reason [for the decline in the genre) is that so many of the hurdles that were used to set up these plots have (mercifully) disappeared, another being that there isn't really much of a culture of romance these days and it's difficult to pluck these things from the ether. I believe the writer of the British TV series "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" wrote an article, making pretty much the same point. It's just very difficult to come up with a plausible Capulets-and-Montagues scenario in my neck of the woods.
He adds that “they” did this stuff so well in the sixties and seventies: "Two for the Road", "Pete 'n' Tillie", "Loving", "Blume in Love". The list goes on.
“Pete 'n' Tillie” had some bleak moments but I think the sixties/seventies style didn't require a light touch for every scene. As I recall, the film had a lot of the sort of wisecracks that people make in ordinary life.
A lot of the Elliot Gould flicks of the seventies would probably be classified as "relationship flicks" today, as would "Two for the Road".

Frank J. Hutton says:  Probably, romantic comedies about 40+ people are needed, since there are 40+ people who're romantic and funny and like that sort of thing. The problem, I think, is that most of the movies just aren't any good.
Thinking back, I rather enjoyed the two with Jack Nicholson -- the one with Dianne Keaton and the other with Helen Hunt. If I recall, they seemed more honest than not and were genuinely funny in places, not all jacked up and shrill like most comedies are these days.
I'm not much for sentimental nonsense unless it's great vintage sentimental nonsense, in which case I'm a sucker and all bets are off. Until my late teens, I'd a definite predilection towards romantic melancholy, classic and otherwise. I escaped it by my early 20's. For whatever reason, Two For the Road always emblemized for me that certain yearning for repeated failure that lurks at the heart of melancholy...It's just the one movie. There's something about it. Probably that had something to do with by that time my parents had divorced and then remarried each other, which 2nd time around wasn't at all for the better. I could really wallow in that theme music and geez, Audrey Hepburn and all...
And yeah, I was wondering that about 'Two For the Road' and was thinking, 'You mean I was scarred into an adolescence of persistent melancholic romantic failure by a rom-com?'

Tamara Lee says: I recently came upon this article in the Atlantic  Romantic Comedy is Dying
 considering the end of romantic comedies in favour of cinematic romance. Something I've noticed lately is an increase in older women/younger man affair romances. The French Bright Days Ahead comes to mind, but there seem to be quite a few.
I suppose the idea is the 40-year-old men are busy having affairs with 20 year girls, so the 40-year-old women need to also...
(I love her biting humor!)
She includes another excellent link to a new film, about a French older woman and an American younger man 5 to 7 and introduces the question if the French mind the typecasting. 5 to 7

Martin Heavisides says: If you broaden the scope a bit (which contemporary examples, which can be called, to distinguish their indistinguishibility, Rom Coms, generally do not) a number of quite fine films are romantic comedies or contain elements of same.
Les Enfant du Paradis
Le Roi du Coeur
Harold and Maude
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Addicted to Love
Joe Versus the Volcano
of which Afterglow involves over 40s in a key role, Les Enfant du Paradis lovers who are young initially but approaching middle age when the story ends, and Harold and Maude involves cross-generational romance with a vengeance. But few romantic comedies are close to as odd or ambitious as these.

After talking about it but especially after listening to these intriguing people, I suppose that the basic answer is YES we want to explore romance in this age and in any age, as we pass through the ages. What we want, however, is not any romantic comedy but a romantic comedy that allows us to recognize ourselves and others in it, appreciate the surprises and the humor and go back to our own life films.


  1. The real problem with rom-coms is that Nora Ephron passed away, and no one else can touch her.

  2. I liked her movies but I can't say I was crazy about them. Still, they were fun.
    And she was prolific-just look at the list of the films she directed (and she also wrote and produced others):
    2009 Julie & Julia
    2005 Bewitched
    2000 Bilhete Premiado
    1998 You've Got Mail
    1996 Michael
    1994 Mixed Nuts
    1993 Sleepless in Seattle
    1992 This Is My Life