Columbia Tristar Marketing Group
Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler in The Bounty Hunter demonstrate some of the elements that do not belong in any romantic comedy.
Columbia Tristar Marketing Group
I'm not trying to brag or anything, but I'm a pretty highly trained expert on movies with banter and kissing in them.
I'm not just talking about the ones you all know about, like When Harry Met Sally. I'm talking about the fact that I used to own I.Q. on VHS. You remember I.Q.? Yeah, I didn't think so. Let's just say Meg Ryan plays a genius, and we'll leave it at that. (Oh, wait: it also features Walter Matthau as Albert Einstein, whose one good line — "I'm steering ze boooat!" — could be useful in a few boat-related situations.)
I'm talking about the large sections of The Cutting Edge that I can, and do, quote from memory.
I'm talking about how many times I saw While You Were Sleeping in theaters. (The answer has been redacted in the event I am one day nominated for a Nobel Prize, because it would be instantly disqualifying.)
So when I tell you that you really, really do not need to include in your romantic comedy the shot of the guy slinging the woman over his shoulder and dragging her out of the room like a sack of potatoes tied around the neck of a recalcitrant toddler, you should believe me. Here, in fact, are ten things to please omit from your film. Please.
1. I love you so much that I enjoy hauling you around. As just stated, hauling is not actually romantic. In the trailer for The Bounty Hunter, it's followed by throwing the woman into the trunk of a car. Ha ha! So romantic. So adorable.
Listen to me: This is creepy. Emulating late-night kidnappers and other perpetrators of actual physical violence is not sexy. To paraphrase many safety experts including Jack Donaghy, never go with Gerard Butler to a second location.
2. Throwing like a girl. This is in the Bounty Hunter trailer, too. Jennifer Aniston, supposedly the foil to her tough-guy ex, supposedly on the run, supposedly some sort of match for him, winds up and makes the most stereotypically (though not actually, as you know if you watch women play various sports) girly throw in the history of cinema. If you insist on having people throw things at each other, allow the lady the dignity of turning and throwing from the shoulder, not from the elbow. And yes, I do say this as a one-time softball infielder.
3. Punches in the crotch. If you cannot write a romantic comedy without a guy crossing his eyes, leaning over, and grasping himself in pain, you cannot write a romantic comedy. (They almost make it through the Bounty Hunter trailer without this one, but then it sneaks in at the very last possible moment.) If a bug-eyed dude trying to recover from a series of fertility-endangering injuries is your idea of an essential element of film, you will find plenty of people who want to watch your movies, but none of them will be me.
4. Anyone, in any situation, using the words "listen up, ladies." Let's stay with Gerard Butler for a moment, this time from last year's execrable The Ugly Truth. During the video clip in which his character is introduced, he says, "Listen up, ladies."
Absolutely no one — and I mean no one — should use the words "listen up, ladies" at any time, with the possible exception of gruff but loving female middle-school gym teachers. Male romantic leads should never, never, ever use these words, because the words "listen up, ladies" coming from a guy are the not only unromantic, they are romantic Kryptonite. They mean "no woman has ever loved me properly except for my mother, and I blame every last one of you." Shocking as it seems, things are certain to go downhill from there.
4. Scuba mishaps. Also parasailing mishaps, golf mishaps, pet-feeding mishaps, home-construction mishaps, and all other mishaps that can generally be deemed "slapstick, wacky, misc."
The rest of the list, after the jump.
5. Rain-soaked fights. Only morons stand outside in the rain and have arguments. Everyone who has ever been outside in the rain and experienced what that feels like understands this instinctively. Therefore, when you place two people outside in the rain for their climactic argument, you tell me that they are morons, and once I realize that they are morons, I don't so much care whether their romance works out; I just hope they get both through the movie without sticking a fork into an electrical outlet. (Note to people currently fighting in the rain: DO NOT STICK A FORK INTO AN ELECTRICAL OUTLET TO FIGURE OUT WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.)
6. Wicked, scheming other women. I call this the Baroness Schrader Got A Raw Deal Rule. All Baroness Schrader wanted was to get married and enjoy her happiness with Captain Von Trapp without being interrupted by a soaking-wet nun and a bunch of curtain-clad children who refuse to stop singing. Is that so wrong?
Look, I get that sometimes, there's going to be a Wrong Girlfriend, so that you can then introduce the Right Girlfriend. But I don't want a lot of dragon-lady antics, because if I wanted girl fights, I'd be watching America's Next Top Model.
7. Inapt comparisons to Mr. Darcy. It is time to let Mr. Darcy go. I have nothing against Mr. Darcy. In fact, I had nothing against the original Mr. Darcy when he became Bridget Jones' Mr. Darcy, because har-har, I get it.
But then You've Got Mail brought Mr. Darcy into things, and there was another movie, and at this point, Mr. Darcy has been played out. Overplayed out. So if your next idea is to call your guy the head of Darcy Industries, or a club figure named DJ Darcy, or a professional hockey player who goes by "Fitzie"? Please forget it. There are other references.
8. Cats that stand for loneliness. If a character — generally a woman — is lonely, there are other ways to demonstrate that, other than showing her feeding a cat. Not only is this unoriginal; it is also contributing to a massive PR crisis that makes female cat owners feel like they are one cuddle away from the pint of Ben & Jerry's and bottle of wine that constitute the other two segments in Hollywood's Three-Legged Stool Of Total Spinsterhood That Needs Solving By A Rumpled Architect Or Other Member Of A Creative Profession. Cats have been powerful symbols since ancient Egypt; they have never asked to be made into powerful symbols of emptiness. FREE FLUFFY!
9. Best friends of ill repute. There is a tendency in films to give both male and female leads best friends who have bad reputations. Generally, this means a more extensive sexual history than the leads themselves have, and/or a more relaxed attitude regarding same.
While best friends of ill repute can be a delight in real life, in a film of this kind, they tend to be cheap stand-ins for respectability, in that they are supposed to instantly suggest that you appreciate fun, but you do not have too much fun. There's nothing particularly hilarious, however, about having friends who have more fun than you do, so these characters tend to add nothing. This is also the kind of attitude that tends to keep Judy Greer from getting her own movies. If she's funny enough to be Katherine Heigl's best friend and Jennifer Aniston's best friend, maybe she should get her own best friend, no?
10. Makeovers. Stop it. Right now. Put down the curling iron, put down the high heels, and leave the glasses where they are.