CLEVER COMEDIES. Summer is always full of action and
superhero pics, but this year a once dormant yet utterly adored
genre is back in a big way: the romantic comedy. After a 2017
without any releases of romantic comedies from a major studio,
this summer is proving to be a re-birth for this lost Hollywood
staple with notable films such as Crazy Rich Asians and a
Mamma Mia! sequel. Pictured are Constance Wu (left) as
Rachel and Henry Golding (right) as Nick in the Warner Bros.
Pictures, SK Global Entertainment, and Starlight Culture
contemporary romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, which is
set to hit theaters on August 15. See story on page 8. (Photo/Sanja
Bucko, courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Kimmel
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #15 (August 6, 2018),
pages 1, 8 & 9.
Once sidelined, romantic comedies rise again
By Lindsey Bahr
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES ó Summer is always full of action and superhero
pics, but this year a once dormant yet utterly adored genre is
back in a big way: the romantic comedy. After a 2017 without any
from a major studio, this summer is proving to be a re-birth for
this lost Hollywood staple with five notable releases, including
Crazy Rich Asians and a Mamma Mia! sequel.
The reasons for the genreís decline are many. A
post-recession focus on international audiences, franchises, and
superheroes have helped to push rom-coms off the priority list
for studios. Also, after a long and fruitful run in the late
í80s through the 2000s, enthusiasm started to wane. They had
become stale. There were a few outliers, of course, like Amy
Schumerís Trainwreck, but the big studio rom-coms became
derivative, lazy, and dull.
"They didnít reflect the way that society was changing. They
were all about white, straight couples. They fell back on the
conventions that define the genre," said Erin Carlson, author of
the book Iíll Have What Sheís Having: How Nora Ephronís Three
Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy, and an upcoming book
about the films of Meryl Streep. "People just got tired of
A death, of sorts, was necessary for the genre to rise again
with a new set of voices. It didnít hurt that The Big Sick
made a splash at the box office and went on to get a
screenwriting Oscar nomination ó the kind of prestigious
recognition rarely afforded to classic rom-coms that donít have
a Silver Linings Playbook edge.
"(The Big Sick) showed that people still want a good
rom-com at the multiplex, but they want one that pushes the
genre forward in new, interesting ways that reflect real life
today, not tired tropes of yesterday," Carlson said.
And indeed, the rom-coms of 2018 are continuing that forward
movement. Earlier in the year there was Paramountís Book Club
and its focus on older women, 20th Century Foxís Love, Simonís
gay, teen protagonist, and the bilingual Overboard, which
has become the highest-grossing film for Pantelion Films.
Set It Up, a Netflix release, is perhaps the most
throwback of all the films. It is about people with actual jobs
that consume their lives instead of playing a glamorous backdrop
to whatever romantic exploits the movie dictates. Zoey Deutch
and Glen Powell star as assistants who decide to set up their
miserable and difficult bosses, played by Lucy Liu and Taye
It was dreamt up by Juliet Berman, the head of development
for Treehouse Pictures, and screenwriter Katie Silberman, both
ardent rom-com fans who met as assistants in Los Angeles.
"I grew up at a time when rom-coms didnít have a negative
connotation, they were just my favorite movies," Silberman said.
"I wanted for a long time to try to write something that would
make audiences feel the way the movies I loved growing up made
me feel. Theyíre fun and kind and warm and nice and smart."
The script got the attention of Hollywood with a spot on the
coveted Black List in 2015, a survey of the industryís best
unproduced screenplays. It was picked up by MGM and even had
Game of Thronesí Emilia Clarke to star, but it started to
fall apart when the studio wavered and Clarke had to go back to
shoot her television show. The team, including Powell, was
"We met with a lot of people who really liked the script, but
so many people would say, Ďoh itís not right for our platform,í
or Ďitís not right for our slate,í" said Set It Up
director Claire Scanlon. "There were so many rules for people
who were picking up films and if it didnít fit perfectly with
exactly what they had coming out, then they didnít want to do
That all changed in a meeting with Netflix, when executive
Matt Brodlie agreed to make it in the room ó he said yes in
January and they were shooting by May. Netflix has also released
a few other romantic comedies this year, including Ibiza,
When We First Met, and The Kissing Booth. And,
likewise, Amazon was the shop that took a gamble acquiring
The Big Sick.
Itís not just streaming platforms re-embracing the genre ó
the big studios are too. Universal has Mamma Mia! Here We Go
Again, with many of the original cast as well as Cher and
Andy Garcia. And Warner Bros. is releasing the adaptation of
Kevin Kwanís popular novel Crazy Rich Asians on August
Nina Jacobson, who produced Crazy Rich Asians, saw an
opportunity in the story about a Chinese-American woman who
travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriendís parents to take
audiences to a world they havenít seen in a mainstream American
movie, and also touch on universal themes.
"So many (romantic comedies) became so formulaic," Jacobson
said. "But it is a genre that has been historically beloved and
successful and this felt like a great way to re-approach it."
The independent realm, which has been keeping rom-coms alive
for some time, also has a few boundary-pushing releases on the
schedule, both about people in their early middle age finding
love. The Sundance charmer Juliet, Naked, based on the
Nick Hornby novel and starring Rose Byrne, Chris OíDowd, and
Ethan Hawke, comes out August 17, followed by Destination
Wedding, which boasts a í90s dream cast in Winona Ryder and
Keanu Reeves who star as single wedding guests, on August 24.
"Itís a dark comedy," said Destination Wedding
producer Gail Lyon. "Theyíre playing the idea of two broken
people who have had the (expletive) kicked out of them in the
love department. Can they really find enough hope to find
something or is cynicism going to rule the day? Itís really
funny and really honest about finding love later in life."
Lyon, who also produced Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!,
knows that the movie business is cyclical, but thinks that
rom-coms needed to get back to the basics ó character and
dialogue ó while also "twisting the paradigm a little bit to
keep it fresh," which she says Destination Wedding does.
If 2018 is the start of a new era of the romantic comedy,
Carlson thinks that one day we may trace it back to The Big
Sick. She compares it to how Moonstruck, which won
three Oscars in 1988, helped get the genre out of the cynical
Annie Hall phase and pave the way for When Harry Met
Sally and all the classics that hit spawned.
"People have written the romantic comedyís obituary over and
over and over again," Carlson said. "But the genre will always
survive as long as itís pushed forward in ways that reflect
contemporary society. And it will also survive as long as love
and relationships elude and fascinate us ó that is, it will
never go away."