Dear Romantic Comedies
What draws me mindlessly to you?
I have excavated and watched so many rom-coms, that Wikipedia could wiki me on this. Are you a guilty pleasure? Like hell, you are. You simplify love, destiny and our happy endings (except for that one time in 500 Days of Summer) in a glittery gift box and tingly musical interludes.
However, just like all tiramisu is not created equal, so it is with you. For something so formulaic, right down to the last pan-up to the clouds, there is some serious range in my high and low scorers. The score is just a statistic though. I would watch every rom-com ever made, and so does she. As I keep score, I managed to distill this equation so:
If the movie has Colin Firth, then this straightway takes the score to the stratosphere. Else, even his other beguiling compatriots will do. I will extend the scope to include Irishmen and Scotsmen. All the twangs, drawls and accents will work. The other side of the pond, any of the Chris or Ryan guys will do. They are all extremely dishy, and one can substitute a little bit of old-world Brit charm with American (or even Australian) rakishness. While exploring other continents, maybe South American people with last names of Bardem might work swimmingly too. And of course, all bets are off if we are talking about When Harry met Sally.
The female lead? Anyone would make the grade I think, suitably channeling 1980s Meg Ryan or Drew Barrymore, or even Katherine Heigl, on a lazy day. For the slightly more ballsy characters, we are looking for more Sandra Bullock-ness with a touch of Julia Robertseque vulnerable appeal.
In Bollywood, this space is cornered entirely by Alia Bhat, Varun Dhawan, Parineeti Chopra and Siddharth Malhotra, in various permutations and combinations onto themselves. After Ranveer Singh went full costume drama, he wrote himself out of this club.
Is the conflict an angry, selfish, greedy father-in-law? Are goons beating up people to a pulp? Does someone have to pay off a large housing loan? Is there a tragic parting that circumstances have forced on the truest love that ever was? Yes? Then sorry, please show yourself out. You are not a rom-com. The whole premise of a rom-com is to airbrush real life’s dark and implosive craters, and make a little potpourri photo-frame of alabaster and wrinkle-free people flying on gossamer clouds.
The conflict is usually that someone left the city or did not take a big hint, which his/ her friends were holding up in large placards. Such as
- “HE LOVES YOU, ARE YOU BLIND?”
- “THIS IS A FIRST WORLD PROBLEM”
- “I CAN DRIVE YOU TO THE AIRPORT NOW BUT IT WONT BE DRAMATIC”
- “EVERYONE HAS COMMITMENT PHOBIA, ITS LIKE A MILD VITAMIN DEFICIENCY, LETS JUST MOVE ON”
- “YOUR SISTER/ MOTHER/ TEACHER IS GIVING YOU TERRIBLE ADVICE”
- “BEST FRIENDS IS A NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT ATTRIBUTE”
This is an overriding feature which when added to the rom-com analytical model, just melts everyone into pink blobs of strawberry crush on the floor, from whence you shall never rise. This is when a special protocol is initiated, and the heart turns into several fluttery butterflies and floats around in the room. These lines/ moments are the equivalent of “the unbreakable vow” in romantic comedies (unnecessary Harry Potter reference detected).
Like when Jerry Maguire says “You complete me” or when John Cusack silently holds the boom box up outside her house. And if you like over-the-top, when Justin Timberlake breaks into a flash mob dance in Grand Central station or Heath Ledger’s one-man opera for Julia Stiles.
There is a reason why psychologists say romantic comedies mess with our perception of romantic love and help feed a frame of reference that boyfriends and husbands come up short against. I would say these guys are lucky. They can easily rustle up home-whipped dinners and desserts, cuddly plush toys, rushed airport rescues and hidden diamond rings in a dainty mise-en-scene to win over the ladies. Now, imagine if they had to go up against William Darcy. No, I could n’t watch that.
Bridget Jane Austen Jones