Monday, 30 August 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #585: The Audience Is Just Not That Into You

Welcome to the show folks...

Came across this piece that said that Hollywood's most recent crop of romantic comedies just haven't been wowing the crowds the way the once did. The Julia Roberts vehicle
Eat, Pray, Love had a big opening with truckloads of hype, even though it was in second place to the testosterone dripping The Expendables, but crumbled into dust extremely quickly. What the studio hoped would be a love affair turned out to be a one night stand and no one called in the morning. Even the allegedly mega-successful Sex & The City 2, only did a little more than half the business of the first movie.

I think there are five reasons for the dwindling success of a once reliable genre:

1. LAZINESS. There is nothing creatively lazier than a modern romantic comedy. There was a time when seeing a romantic comedy meant dialogue that snapped, crackled, and popped more than your breakfast, multi-layered plots based on misunderstandings involving complex social mores, and characters you actually wanted to see together. Each one had to be different in order to stand out, now they're all pretty much the same with increasingly contrived situations around the relationship in question. There was an attitude with the studios that women will buy anything marketed as a "chick flick" regardless of quality.

2. INSULARITY. Is it just me, or do most modern romantic comedies involve a woman from New York who "has it all," including a glamorous fantasy job, finding love by changing some dorky hunk of manhood into someone she finds acceptable. Can we have someone who doesn't have a glamorous job in New York? This could also be a symptom of the laziness inherent in the genre with every writer pitching them as just like the last one to actually make money.

3. CONSUMERISM. Can we have a romantic comedy that doesn't have a montage scene about shopping or makeovers? I know the chicks love to shop, and talk shopping, but even they have a limit when it comes to product placement being shoved down their throats at the expense of plot and character development.

4. POOR CHEMISTRY. Chemistry is hard to find. It's where two actors work so seamlessly, so naturally together on screen that the audience wants them to end happily ever after. The actors in question can hate each other off screen, but on screen, they're electrifying. It seems harder to find today. Most on screen couples these days are pretty to look at but just don't click.

5. COST. There was a time when romantic comedies were reliable moneymakers. They were cheap to make, and could actually pull a profit on a $100 million box office take. One of the most successful romantic comedies of 2010 was Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day. It made $100+ million at the box office which is good, right? Wrong. The film cost $52 million just to make, and at least that much in prints and advertising. The very best case scenario is that it might break even. Why did the film cost so much? Because the people starring and making romantic comedies saw the studios raking big money from the big hits, and demanded more up front. When the receipts started to shrink, they started cramming in more 'stars' into movies like Valentine's Day, and He's Just Not That Into You in the hope that it would make them a blockbuster. It didn't work.

Is the romantic comedy dead?

No, people will always love stories about love.

I do think it needs some reform. Maybe a little more originality and intelligence coupled with some real on screen chemistry.


  1. I think we should get started on some "retro" romcoms D. Romantic Comedies taking place in the past, or in places like rural farms, lost tribes... We could sleep through staff meetings and still write this &$#*@#$%.

  2. maybe I will make my comedy about "The world's inside you ass" into a romcom as many of these films are pretty much stuck there to begin with anyway.

  3. Good romantic comedies require subtlety,character evolution and decent acting skills,not the slapstick,broad,orifice humor done today. Moonstruck is a good example of great dialogue, acting skills,Nic Cage was great in that film,actually everyone was great,including the dogs. Has Hollywood FORGOTTEN how to write dialogue like that? Ah ha,Hollywood is now more into teenage vampires,who apparently have never read Jane Austen,or Henry Miller.The sacred and the profane sides of love.Another undermining factor working against movie romance is television and those reality tv shows...ugh.As Tina Turner once said,"what does love have to do with it?" Hollywood remember there are intelligent romantic adult people who wouldn't mind seeing a romantic comedy with soul.