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hollywood's love formula
must add new ingredients
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)

I watched Failure to Launch and I knew the entire story at the opening credits. It was How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days with Sarah Jessica Parker instead of Kate Hudson, parents in the picture, and a really strange subplot with an annoying roommate who can't sleep because of the chirpings of a mockingbird.

I am tired of being fooled by Hollywood.

I'm sick of predictable guy meets girl, guy chases after girl, guy has stupid problems with girl thrown in at the last minute to create just enough conflict to merit a traditional story frame, then they work it out and live happily ever after in a matter of five, cheese-filled minutes.

I'm sick of that.

Moreover, I'm sick of the same actors and actresses being cast in the same roles to add to the predictability and shallowness of a story. If I see one more movie with Matthew McConaughey as a commitment challenged and ladies' man, I'm going to scream.

One of my favorite movies stars one of my least favorite actresses and is a romantic comedy. It's not your typical romantic comedy, mind you, and that is mainly because the end is not a typical "romantic" ending. The girl doesn't simply get the guy in the end just because she is who she is... in fact, the girl doesn't get the guy in the end at all, and even gets called "The pus that infects the mucus that cruds up the fungus that feeds on the pond scum," by the very guy she's chasing after throughout the movie. She also ends up being the bridesmaid at his wedding. Adding insult to injury, the bride is younger, rich, blond and completely polar opposite of the heroine. That's gotta hurt, right?

I don't know how many people I've talked to about My Best Friend's Wedding since it came out ages ago, but they've almost all said the same thing. They all said that they liked it, except for "Dammit! I was disappointed that she didn't end up with him in the end! I don't go to the movies to get disappointed!" But I loved that movie because it was disappointing in the end. It was such a breath of fresh air from the usual, predictable romantic comedies with warm and fuzzy characters played by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks types, and the boring and predictable formula that plagues romantic comedies to this day doing nothing to stimulate or challenge the viewer's mind or emotions.

What really set My Best Friend's Wedding apart from the slew of other films in the genre you can barely remember at all, is that it added new ingredients to the formula, but didn't forget to be truly and intelligently funny. It's hilarious that a guy can tell a girl that she is "The pus that infects the mucus that cruds up the fungus that feeds on the pond scum..." and follow it by, "On the other hand, thank you for loving me that much, that way. It's pretty flattering." Now, that's some great dialogue you don't hear everyday that for some reason makes you want to have that kind of relationship with someone. To be able to insult them, or have them insult you and still realize that it's done out of love, or endearment... it's a beautiful friendship instead of a fairy tale love story, and to me, that's not disappointing at all. I saw the other positive side-- a friendship that can never be broken no matter how hard one tries. The comedy is still there-- it's funny, and everything DID end up being OK in the end, just not the way most people expect OK to be in a romantic comedy.

Snow White sang "Someday my prince will come," and he did. I liked that, and still do. But the outcome of this Disney classic suits the world in which Snow White and her prince existed, albeit it was a much grimmer story originally, but Disney made it a cutesy fairytale and I loved it and gobbled it up as a kid. I love romance.

However, as an adult, watching grown-up movies, my mind requires a bit more of a challenge even while being entertained with a bowl of popcorn.

Let me explain.

Another one of my favorite romantic comedies is Only You. It isn't quite as sophisticated as My Best Friend's Wedding, but it is still a damn good story. It tells a unique, far-fetched love story with fairytale-like qualities, particularly Cinderella, yet with realistic boundaries and conflict that are really obstacles... not just bumps, but potholes that are big enough to get your car-- or relationship-- stuck in. The guy does end up with the girl in the end, which is great, but not without stepping a bit out of boundaries to get what he wants. He becomes desperate and crazy enough to hire an actor to play a scuzzball to distort his love interest's view of love and destiny altogether, rendering him someone any girl in her right mind would steer away from, hence, the conflict that complicates the story and makes it good. Far-fetched yes, but makes for a good and conflict-filled story that never bores you. You know the outcome, but how the outcome is reached is the mystery, and that's what makes a romantic comedy good and intelligent. It's what makes you remember it instead of mix it up with the movie from five years ago that may or may not have starred the same actor.

Joe vs. the Volcano is incidentally a Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movie. It also is one of my favorites. Aside from it being hilarious with the combined efforts of these two actors, it also possesses qualities that make the love story miniscule and the adventure leading up to the unification of the hero and heroine of the story more important and more memorable. You don't forget the part where the Polynesian chief guy asks the couple "Do you want to marry her? Do you want to marry him? You're married. Now jump," and it reminds you that there is romance in the picture, but you lean more toward the comedy of the situation of being married right before you have to jump into a volcano than the marriage itself. French Kiss is another Meg Ryan movie, and it is fantastic. There's such a mixture of so many things I can't describe, but it's one of the most romantic and hilarious movies ever made. It is unlike any other movie in any genre, and it's brilliant, and it is brilliant because it has very different ingredients.

Though I loved one movie for not letting the guy and girl get together in the end, I still like to see people unite in the end. I just prefer the lead up to that point to be intelligent and unique. Vive l'amour... in the movies.


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


a one-sided struggle
east (china) vs. west (hollywood)
by reem al-omari
topic: film
published: 4.30.08

the distance between a book and a movie
sometimes it's pretty big
by reem al-omari
topic: film
published: 11.27.07


robert melos
7.27.07 @ 1:47a

I get the impression McConaughey isn't really acting, but simply being himself.

reem al-omari
7.27.07 @ 3:07a

I very much agree. He's not a very good actor. I must say, though that he doesn't hurt your eyes.

russ carr
7.27.07 @ 7:59a

When "No Reservations" comes out today? Avoid it. Unless you're a die-hard Abigail Breslin fan, there is nothing in this movie for anyone with a brain.

mike julianelle
7.27.07 @ 8:55a

I AM a die-hard Abigail Breslin fan!

ken mohnkern
7.27.07 @ 10:01a

When "No Reservations" comes out today rent "Mostly Martha," the pretty-darn-good German movie it's based on.


lisa r
7.27.07 @ 11:57a

When "No Reservations" comes out today? Avoid it. Unless you're a die-hard Abigail Breslin fan, there is nothing in this movie for anyone with a brain.

I have a brain, but I still want to see it. My brain is on chemistry overload, and something that doesn't require thought sounds like just the ticket.

russ carr
7.27.07 @ 12:07p

Well, yeah, unless you'd rather not see The Simpsons Movie, then No Reservations fits the bill. It's not that it's a BAD movie, it's just an unjustifiable one. Mostly Martha was much better, and isn't that old. It's still a by-the-numbers romcom, too, but (with few exceptions) I suppose that's what endears that audience segment to the genre.

lisa r
7.28.07 @ 12:22p

You're talking to a die-hard romance novel fan, as well as someone who watches Romancing the Stone every time it's on t.v. Every once in a while I just need an escape from reality.

I've never been a Simpsons fan. To me, THAT's a mindless and tasteless program. I can't imagine that putting it on the big screen is going to somehow magically improve it.

reem al-omari
7.28.07 @ 4:28p

Lisa, I love Romancing the Stone myself. That's up there with Joe Vs. The Volcano... it's more of an adventure/romance than just a romance. There is cheese in it, but it's outweighed by Danny DeVito being absolutely hilarious, and the awesome story line.

alex b
7.29.07 @ 5:44a

Ya know, I think I liked Matthew McConaughey most in Dazed and Confused. His "serious actor stuff" (Amistad, A Time To Kill) doesn't really crack it for me.

One of the coolest things to emerge from My Best Friend's Wedding was Rupert Everett's character- a gay man who functioned as the moral center of the movie. Given it's Hollywood, THAT was pretty remarkable.

lucy lediaev
7.31.07 @ 4:26p

I second the thought that "Mostly Martha" is a better bet than "No Reservations." I tripped over it on a cable movie channel and found it extremely entertaining. It is a formulaic love story but with somewhat offbeat characters with depth, which made if a better than usual romantic flick.

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