Let’s just be honest here: dating is awkward. Not only are there innumerable opportunities to miscommunicate, but when you’re getting to know someone, one wrong word might trigger an embarrassing situation. It’s these uncomfortable and awkward situations which are often used in romantic comedies. Even if this genre is formulaic, occasionally a few films fit into the category but don’t end quite the way you’d expect. Most guys can’t stand romantic comedies, but at least they’re a little more tolerable than just a straight romance film because of the humor involved. After all, they still have to be funny if they’re to be considered a romantic comedy. Besides, men and women are so different, the comedy practically writes itself. This week’s two films are some excellent examples of romantic comedies.
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours
Woody Allen has been a staple name in the realm of comedies that it’s no wonder he’d be associated with one of the best romantic comedies of all time. In terms of awards, the quality of the film speaks for itself. Not only did it win four Oscars in 1978, which included Best Actress for Diane Keaton, Best Director and Best Writing for Woody Allen and the Best Picture Oscar, but it has placed at #35 on the list of the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 films of all time (#31 originally). Since most films Woody Allen directed were nominated for Original Screenplay Oscars, the key to a successful romantic comedy seems to be in the writing. If you can’t rely on action or explosions to entertain, you really need to make sure the script is solid if you want to get any laughs out of the awkward situations involved with dating.
Annie Hall (1977) is about finding love in New York City (where most of Woody Allen’s films are placed) and is perhaps Allen’s best film. Allen portrays writer Alvy Singer, who just can’t get over the relationship he had with an aspiring actress, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Through some useful techniques, like breaking the fourth wall, the audience gets to see inside the heads of the characters. Even though they attempt to reconcile a few times, the relationship just doesn’t seem to be working. While most romantic comedies end with the couple getting back together, getting together in the first place, or getting married, Annie Hall doesn’t end quite in this way. Similarly, a few of the films by James L. Brooks (e.g., Terms of Endearment (1983) and, Broadcast News (1987)) had similar, non-traditional endings for the romantic comedies that they are.
Bringing Up Baby
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours
Have you ever wondered if you’re marrying the wrong person? One of the most common themes found in romantic comedies is the introduction of another person into a mix of a romance between two people. The “love triangle” is often formed when some driving force brings the third party into the equation, at which point the original relationship is now in jeopardy. While it can be very cliché, most of the initial relationships in these situations are never solid to begin with. Whether it’s a cold and heartless woman, or a neglectful and distant man, the audience is practically screaming at the main character that they shouldn’t go through with the wedding and should instead marry the new, third person. Because this “love triangle” theme is so common, it’s no wonder it is often seen in some of the earliest romantic comedies.
The driving force in Bringing up Baby (1938) is the titular Baby: a Brazilian leopard. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is set to be married to Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker), but just so happens to run across Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) on the eve of his wedding. Because of a miscommunication, Susan gets David to come to her country home in Connecticut to bring up Baby, mistakenly taking him for a zoologist, instead of his actual profession of paleontology. Of course, the mistaken identities continue as another leopard escapes from the circus, thus allowing Susan and David to think that this new leopard is Baby, when in fact it is a very dangerous animal. Hilarity ensues, but Alice now doesn’t want anything to do with David because of his interactions with Susan. Fortunately, Susan has a few connections that David needs to finish his paleontology project. Oh, and they love each other too.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 comedic couplings