In-between horror films, my partner and I have been queuing up some classic romantic comedies, often to find them much more horrifying than anything we can find on Shudder.
Before I run down what may be the first Part of many or may be just another elliptical cinematic journey, my main conclusion: all romantic comedies are confusing and problematic and incredible. It’s little wonder we’re all bags of trauma. We have been reflecting and perpetuating unfortunate shit for a long time.
- 27 Dresses: The titular dress montage is bliss but the central romance involves a reporter who lies about his identity, reads Katherine Heigl’s diary without her consent and makes it a story at her expense. Heigl forgives him not because he’s particularly apologetic but because it is James Marsden. And to be fair, she’s not wrong. Bonus yuck points for the boss/assistant dynamic between Heigl and the voice of B&H, Edward Burns. Despite (or because?) of this, one of my bullet point notes for this film was: “This is really good.”
- Notting Hill: This movie shows how dangerously celebrity obsessed we are as a culture and I wish we had caught that shit back in ’99. Julia Roberts has no personality beyond being rich and famous, and indeed, she’s also a jerk to Hugh Grant to boot. Another huge red flag is that she has a raging asshole of a boyfriend in Alec Baldwin for SO long, displaying her truest gift is self-loathing. She is not a healthy person to enter a relationship with (cue: suits yelling around the table, “Who wants to watch a movie about healthy people?!”). “Normal guy” Hugh Grant can do much better than Julia Roberts even though everyone tells him otherwise. As a Love Actually recoveree, I’m convinced that Otto Hightower/Rhys Ifan’s ew-y horn dog character is a stand-in for director Richard Curtis.
- Two Weeks Notice: Another toxic boss-employee movie literally features Sandra Bullock needing to take a shit in the middle of a traffic jam while Cars’ “Taking Care of Business” plays. That blissful high art helps smooth over the fact that Bullock’s character is a super qualified and high-powered environmental attorney that then… becomes Hugh Grant’s personal assistant? Her character’s value is tied to making a rich white man change. Accurately, once he does grow up, he loses his job and power. Beware: Pumpkin Turd President shows up to hammer home the kind of character that Hugh Grant plays when we start.
- [WORST IN SHOW] Miss Congeniality is 111 minutes of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and fat shaming. Sandy Bullock ends up romantically entangled, of course, with the man responsible for a lot of the aforementioned toxicity, because it’s Benjamin Bratt. At least this film has Heather Burns. (Not to mention William Shatner, Candace Bergen and Michael Caine!)
- The Lake House: “I’m an architect. I like to build,” Keanu Reeves says, and I believe him. I also believe in this film’s central romance more than almost all of these other films, and it features a time traveling mailbox. Indeed, perhaps because they’re more believable precisely because they never have to endure being in the same room/year with one another. This gem wins the prestigious award for “Best Gummi Movie” of the bunch.
- Love & Basketball: “Double or nothing.” This wins the Rom-Com Crown because its characters face and own their shit. Bonus points for being one of the most believable basketball movies in the process.
This is an excerpt of Wanderings, an experimental periodical.