Romantic Comedy

Currently streaming on Mubi

Elizabeth Sankey’s documentary casts a wry eye over her adolescent obsession for romcoms. Guilty pleasures that lead to unfulfilled aspirations, or providers of role models for teenage girls?

I suspect Ms Sankey hasn’t really shaken off her love of these movies, and if forced to decide, she would come down in favour of them. She does present a fairly balanced for/against argument though, which is probably a better shake than most would give a genre that is generally critically derided.

Sankey points out that Hitler had a fair bit to do with the transformation of these films, since prior to WW2 there were a number of strong female leads who gave as good as they got when exchanging one-liners with their male (and often second billed) co-stars. Post war, these women ceased to be successful business women and became relegated to the role of wives and mothers.

This, of course, is the crux of the argument. On one hand, the heroines may lead glamourous lives, away above the expectations of the majority of the cinema audience. But on the other hand their entire existence seems to be defined by their attempts to be suitable wife material for a rich and handsome man.

She also makes the point that the behaviour of some of the men in romcoms these days steps way over the line from being ardent suitors to worthy of a restraining order, and shows a number of clips that back that up. It may come as a relief, then, to people of colour, gay people and those who do not measure up to the conventional standards of beauty that the vast majority of these movies do not feature them as central characters. If you’re not young, good looking middle class heterosexuals there’s not a lot of room for you.

And here we have a suggested future for romcoms – cast the net wider and be more inclusive. There may be a whole new Cineplex audience ready to lay their money down, without losing the fans they already have.

Jim Welsh

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