Shortcutting… Romantic Comedies

9 Jun

I am currently watching The Holiday (Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black) and it has occurred to me that there is a very specific formula for the Rom Com, so specific in fact that you actually don’t need to watch it, or not at least beyond the first five minutes. Allow me to save you some time:

Right, so judging by the cast list, you should be able to establish the romantic leads. Normally there will be two, but sometimes, as in The Holiday, there are multiple pairings to be made. (I haven’t actually watched Love Actually – I know: massive crime! – but as far as I can gather from that gift-wrapped photo montage on the front, there are several tangled little stories to follow.) This complicates things slightly: it will take a couple more minutes of watching before you can work out who is going to end up with who. But never fear, it should soon become obvious enough.

If you need help figuring it out, there are a few things you can use to point you in the right direction. Firstly, the couple-to-be either start their relationship hating each other (see The ProposalClueless (ish), Did You Hear About the Morgans?) and then grow to love each other, or begin as really good friends (Valentine’s DayNo Strings AttachedWhen Harry Met Sally) and then grow to love each other. In both of these situations, there are often other potential love interests who brutally break the hearts of the romantic leads,   bringing the romantic leads closer, until they eventually realize their undying love for each other (The Holiday, Valentine’s Day). 

Another possibility is that they have to be together for some reason despite not liking each other (The Proposal – she’ll get deported otherwise, Did You Hear About the Morgans? – witness protection programme, The Bounty Hunter – he has to track her down for jumping bail, What Happens in Vegas – they get married one drunken night in Vegas, Life as We Know It – they are named guardians to an orphaned child) and this forces them to get to know each other and realize their undying love for each other.

There’s also a whole lot of used-to-be-in-love-but-it-didn’t-work-out-but-we-actually-still-love-each-other (Did You Hear About The Morgans?, The Bounty Hunter, 17 Again, Crazy Stupid Love).

One final plot possibility is  that there’s no pretence of them not being in love from the start, but there are all sorts of obstacles and difficulties in the way that make you unsure whether they’ll make it (The Holiday, Notting Hill).

Finally, all of the above have a climactic moment where it looks like they’ve really broken up this time! (often due to some massive secret being revealed that one of them had kept throughout the film but we knew about) but then one of them does some sweet, goofy gesture that makes it all okay (see in particular Hugh Grant films e.g. Notting Hill, Music and Lyrics, About a Boy).

I hope this saves you time watching the aforementioned films: you should now not only be able to predict with certainty the last five minutes from the first five minutes of these films, but also bluff your way through a plot synopsis of a Rom Com you haven’t seen…

Keep Shortcutting,



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