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Summer Of No Romance

- By Rachina Ahuja and Nishant Boorla (commentary in blue). Two platonic friends who agree to disagree. Always.
Summer is an exciting time for movie lovers. A lot of big ones release during these months. Personally, I don’t care for action flicks and I live with a cherished hope that rom-coms will someday get smarter and I won’t be looked-down upon for watching them. Summer is usually a good time for the romance genre because people have a lot of time on their hands and I assume the target audience is couples (where women drag men along) and single women (the depressing truth). This summer however, was pretty bad for the genre. Why, you ask? I’d LOVE to elaborate:

No Strings Attached, even though it wasn’t technically released in summer, was like a harbinger of what was to come. One of the most unintelligent, unimaginative movies I’ve seen in a while. And this coming from a person who likes ‘chick-flicks’! The only buzz surrounding that movie was something on the lines of “Ooooh sex between friends who aren’t dating!” And it left me feeling greasy thanks to the load of cheese they freely heaped on such a ‘daring’ scenario. 
Now these movies hardly ever have a twist in the tale. Even when the girl gets pregnant you know they’re working towards a mushy happy ending. Happily Ever After.
Basic principles of a rom-com-
1.Boy+Girl - They’re people whom you can usually identify with. The film-makers are supposed to make the characters likable. You should want them to live happily ever after. The screenwriter (I consider it sacrilege to even call them that. If you’re a screenwriter who writes only rom-coms, you’re the oompa-loompa of the screenwriting world). Ok, I have to start over. Writing screenplays for rom-coms is as sophisticated as writing Zodiac columns. Just pick random points everyone can relate to and build a character around those.
2.Conflict - There’s something keeping them apart, usually their own issues. IMPORTANT: This has to be believable! No one likes a heroine who is stupid or a hero who’s just being an A-hole.

3.The big resolution- Even though we know how it’s going to end, brownie points for film-makers who surprise us. We’re just saying be a little different. The airport/wedding scene has been done to death.
Even more points if you’re the guy who made 500 days of summer which was enjoyable even though it didn’t necessarily have a happy ending (which actually is a matter of opinion, because I didn’t think the ending was sad at all). Brickbats and cow dung for the guy who made P.S I Love You for writing a story so manipulative, trying to wring tears out of the viewer with every new scene. And failing miserably.
4.The process- This is why we go watch movies that have no suspense. We want to see HOW it all unfurls. We want to be told a story without being stressed out that it’s all going to end badly. Everyone loves a story, right? Most importantly, it should ring true. We shouldn’t be walking out of the theaters grumbling about the idiocy of the characters and about how ridiculous the premise was.
There. Now you have it. Now let’s take a look-see at what came out this summer eh? I am STRICTLY talking about the romance or the romantic comedy genre. I’ll leave it to Nishant to bash the genre (as he will) and talk about other movies. Not to take off on a tangent, but there’s an interesting article Meg Cabot (really, people, the author of The Princess Diaries and many more fun books) wrote on why men don’t watch rom-coms but more on that later.
Right then. Movies.
Something Borrowed-
*ing: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski
Okay, so I read the book and that’s why I needed to watch the movie. It’s a thing. I’m sure it happens to everyone, right? Not really, no! Not with every book anyway. I wouldn’t watch a Brer Rabbit movie if it ever comes out. Unless it has a graphic novel feel to it and is directed by Zack Snyder.
Anyway, it was a nice movie, one that I’d watch when I don’t feel like taxing my brains. It suffered from the usual flaws though, for example: Rachel is supposed to be plain, who in their right mind would call Ginnifer Goodwin that? But it’s a movie so I forgive them. Oh right, the premise is slightly different from the usual, except not really. Made of Honor comes to mind as well as 27 Dresses (although it plays out differently in that) and a dozen others that involve weddings. Protagonist is in love with someone who is getting married (wow…radical!). That someone is getting married to her best friend who has overshadowed her all her life. How she gathers up the courage to take what she wants, for a change, forms the rest of the movie (Yawn). I thought the guy was a HUGE idiot (They’ve sucked Rachina in to the rabbit hole and now she has formed opinions of the characters). Anyone could see Rachel wanted to go out with him but he asked her friend, Darcy, out instead, even though HE LIKED Rachel! (What a plot! Puts Fight Club to shame huh?) Gaaaaah. Not the shiniest fork in the drawer, if you ask me. The resolution was what you would expect. Nothing big or surprising about it. Moving on.
Bridesmaids
*ing: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, John Hamm, and a bunch of other people
This movie was pretty great. I walked in not knowing what to expect (a movie with a strong SNL influence); I mean it’s a bunch of 30 somethings and their love lives or lack thereof, you’d think it would be depressing.  Nope! I laughed myself into stitches. The best part? These are real women! They’re NOT glamorous, NOT skinny and NOT perfectly put together all the time. They get drunk and create havoc on airplanes, they say stupid things, they eat bad food and um “get sick” in public and also apparently steal puppies. The message that you get if you think about the movie after laughing yourself sick is - ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ Corny as it sounds. It’s all very lightly delivered, just in the way you should take life: with a large dose of humor. (Look who’s getting preachy!)
Crazy Stupid Love
*ing: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
When I walked in to the theater, I was a bit alarmed because I barely saw anyone near my age sitting in there. I braced myself for a preachy, oldies romance, but soon I began to enjoy myself in earnest. Who can resist Steve Carell? He’s great as usual with his deadpanning. Julianne Moore was good too. Marisa Tomei was very entertaining, even in her tiny role. The scene-stealer for me was, of course, Ryan Gosling (He looks like a cross between cricketer Praveen Kumar and Hockey stud Dhanraj Pillay, only fairer!).
The climax of the movie reminded me a bit of a silly Bollywood movie: there are a bunch of misunderstandings and a scene ensues where all parties involved are in the same place and there is confusion galore. We do enjoy those, though, so no complaints! Also, Emma Stone was, as usual, wonderful but old Kevin Bacon was kinda weird and unnecessary (I still think of him as Rex from Footloose) (And I think of him as Capt. Jack Ross from A Few Good Men.)

Friends with Benefits
*ing: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis
Sigh. Just when you think No Strings Attached has properly ruined the premise, another one comes along. Awful acting helmed by the same guy that directed Easy A, which is why I thought this might not be so bad.It wasn’t bad, it was much better than No Strings Attached. It was self-deprecating and yet trying to be sweet at the same time.
If sweet is what you can call it. Best part? Very low amounts of cheese. That’s all we want, guys. That wasn’t so hard, was it? (For the record, this movie made me want to kill myself. This sucked just as much as No Strings Attached. At least they had a better lead pair for No Strings Attached. They got Natalie Portman while these guys got Mila Kunis AKA Poor man’s Black Swan!)
One day
*ing: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess
YUCK.
They put us through hours of Jim Sturgess’ awful, irritating character for this! Seriously, he smirks his way through the ENTIRE movie. I liked him in 21 but halfway through this, I wanted to punch his face. The movie shows us one day (July 15th, if you care) in the life of these two people for 20 years of their lives. The fact that the story mostly flows even though it’s just one day at a time tells us what? THEIR LIVES ARE NOT THAT INTERESTING. I don’t know about others, but I sat through all the crud: through Emma dating some guy she doesn’t like, through Dexter being a jackass and doing nothing but womanizing and smoking up, through their friendship which was basically her whining to him about her life and him DDing her and them talking about what they could be and should be but never doing anything about it, sat through all of it hoping that things would turn out to be okay and I can leave the theater with a sigh of relief. No such luck, it just got worse. Ugh, just stay away from this crap. (I don’t think I need to add anything here. We at LTGTR do all we can to avoid using foul language and so I won’t comment.)
Sunk without a trace:
Disney’s Prom
Monte Carlo
Hits?
Blue Valentine
Water for elephants
A note on Meg’s article-
Here are a couple of quotes that pretty much say it all-
“Straight guys won’t go see a “romantic comedy” (or any movie featuring a female main character, unless it’s Megan Fox) unless they’ve been dragged to it by their significant other (or their mom)(BTW Meg Cabot – If a guy watches rom-coms with his mom, he’s not straight. No don’t give the ”he’s sweet and compassionate” crap. He’s not. He’s GAY!)
This is why, for every one Bridesmaids, we have four Die Hards, four Terminators, four Pirates of the Caribbean, three Transformers, and two Hangovers. I have seen all seventeen of these films (plus Bridesmaids), so I know the real reason they were so successful isn’t because men don’t enjoy a good romantic story (Men enjoy good love stories as much as women. As long as the emotions are real. The story doesn’t have to be realistic, just the emotions and scenario. Which is why Wall E worked. And that is also why “He’s Just Not That In To You” bombed! Most women who watch rom-coms almost exclusively still haven’t grown up, or so it seems.They crave fairy tale romances with plastic emotions all centered around the one woman no guy wants to marry. No premise, no futuristic setting, the same crap over and over again with different actresses.) Strip away the roofies, explosions, and talking robots and at the heart of each of the above franchises is a hero who will do anything to protect (or get home to) the woman he loves.
Perhaps it’s simply that because these more expensively made, man-centric, special-effects heavy films (I’m counting Mike Tyson as a special effect) tend to be so widely promoted, while romantic comedies are released in so many fewer cities, on less screens, with the only pre-release buzz centering around whatever real-life romantic travails their stars are currently enduring, that makes the “guys won’t see a romantic comedy” thing a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.”(No Excuses now. Those films are promoted so much and are given such huge marketing budgets because the studios know they’ll make all that money back. Not the case with rom-coms. Too tiny a target audience. Single moms, single girls, end of story. Whereas as with action flicks you attract all men without exception. Yes even the gay ones who come in droves to gawk at Chris Helmsworth’s body in Thor. You also attract women in relationships whose boyfriends drag them along. Since these films interest men, most single women will watch them too so they can talk about what guys want to talk about. And here’s the best part – Almost all these films are rated PG-13. Studios make sure it’s a PG-13 and not an R. This means lots and lots of kids at the movies all dying to watch your movie first. This also means lots and lots of parents accompanying their kids to watch Transformers movies. Can’t beat that killer combo.)
”This isn’t to say movies with exploding talking robots, roofies, or pirates shouldn’t be made.  I would never say that, because I’m a fan of those films as well.  I just think we need to be honest and admit that all of these stories, like all of us, have something in common: We all yearn to watch others fall in love, as we have; struggle to find themselves, as we have; and of course be publicly humiliated by an adversary, and tortured by a domineering matriarchal figure, as we have.” (Class Dismissed!)

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Rachina Ahuja
Writing about myself is an annoying task because I’m never the same. I like change, I’m used to it, but when I go to my favorite restaurant, I’ll always order the same thing. Why take a risk? My ideal occupation would be Captain of a pirate ship with a pet orangutan but I’ll settle for making animated movies.


 

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