It’s crass. It’s commercial. It’s sappy. It’s devoid of any actual meaning. Most importantly, it was designed by a cynical, manipulative industry that wants to take someone’s hard earned dollars and provide nothing more than a fleeting emotional response in return. And you know what? I fall for it every time. I am referring of course to Valentine’s Day, but the above description also applies to the films we will be examining this month. They all fall into the lessthan reputable genre known as the romantic comedy.
Romantic comedies aren’t classy. They aren’t deep or meaningful. They are the cinematic equivalent of those heart-shaped candies: bland, safe and devoid of any true value. That doesn’t, however, make them bad. Actually, like those candies, romantic comedies can be a lot of fun under the right circumstances. When shared with someone special, they can provide a respite from the cares and concerns that go hand-in-hand with relationships. You and your significant other can be swept up in “Happily Ever After,” for 90 minutes before the reality of “After” kicks in. I realize that sounds cynical, but anything in the real worldcan’t compete with movie style romance.
In a romantic comedy, the hero’s repeated grand romantic gestures eventually win the heart of the heroine. In real life, he would be accused of stalking and hit with a restraining order. In romantic comedies, misunderstandings and missed opportunities are all overcome with a sweeping kiss and soaring music. In real life, these are usually the first steps towards a break-up. In romantic comedies, love conquers all. In real life, not so much. In romantic comedies, the rival for the leading ladies affection is a complete scumbag who doesn’t deserve her. In real life…well, ok. I’ll give you that one.
But it’s that disconnect from reality that makes these films so appealing. In the movies, the bad guy (or girl) gets what they deserve and the couple who are obviously meant to be together always find each other. What’s wrong with that? Sure it’s a fantasy. We all know that nine times out of ten, relationships don’t work out the way we want them to or think they should. So why not, if only briefly, embrace the possibility that true love can indeed conquer all?
For me, the greatest on screen example of this is The Princess Bride. I’m not going to rehash the plot because I can’t do it justice. Suffice it to say, it’s a classic tale of “True Love and Grand Adventure.” Everything about this movie is fantastic.
The funny thing is that The Princess Bride fits all the criteria for a romantic comedy. It shouldn’t be as good as it is. The characters shouldn’t be so well drawn. The story shouldn’t be so engrossing. The movie should not stay with you long after it’s over. But it does. In this way, it becomes the exception that proves the rule. Yes it’s commercial. Yes, it’s sappy. Yes, it was made by a studio whose sole purpose is to make money. But it’s still great, and if you’re looking for something to watch with that special someone, or even by yourself, you can’t do much better than this.