The Rom-Com's Dying, But Maybe That Isn't So Bad

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rom comPhoto: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Somewhere in Los Angeles, Mindy Kaling is lying on the floor in an adorably tragic pose, lamenting the imminent demise of her favorite type of movie: the romantic comedy. Yes, if 2013's box office can be believed — and the upcoming Amy Poehler/Paul Rudd rom-com parody is well-received — the formulaic genre we hate to love is ailing. And, now The Atlantic's all but pronounced it dead (our condolences to Love Actually 2 hopefuls). So, what went wrong? And, more importantly, what's going to make it right?

Well, besides a shortage of willing, talented, and sellable actors, there are uninterested studios and less interested audiences. But, The Atlantic's Christopher Orr pinpointed another, more deep-seated issue last year: Modern love, he wrote, has evolved to the point that there are no longer obstacles "to nuptial bliss for the budding couple to overcome.” Yes, too many approving families and too narrow class divides are killing the rom-com. So, even for a genre that's never particularly prided itself on verisimilitude, things have just gotten too unreal.

But, the good news is there's hope for movies about love with comedic aspirations. In fact, we're quite excited about a new upstart of a genre that's waiting in the wings. It tells real-ish love stories through a humorous (at times) lens, rather than, say, forcing far-fetched vignettes about lust into a predictable order that passes for plot. It's called cinematic romance, and it's realistic and artistic, sad and sincere — even fun and funny. It can be hopeful. It can be depressing. It might even involve a meet-cute.

If the cinematic romance feels familiar, it's because it's a lot like a real-life affair. One that, if we can't recognize as our own, we know as someone else's. You'll see it in recent movies like Silver Linings Playbook, Enough Said, Her, and Before Midnight, which depict the high highs of love without pretending the low (and lackluster) lows don't exist. In them, "Love is not always easy, nor is it always successful," writes Alexander Huls for The Atlantic. "These romances — with their hiccups and outright fallouts — understand that the greatest challenge around love is succeeding in keeping it alive."

This all sounds great, especially if, like us, you can't resist an artful dose of despair in your movies, but whether or not the cinematic romance is a mere trend or real evolution remains to be seen. After all, it's not like romantic comedies are extinct — surely there's a star-studded cast just waiting (or contractually obligated) to be assembled so everyone can struggle to find a date. That, after all, is what rom-com love is for. (The Atlantic)