It seems the old school, formulaic rom-com, fodder for many a Saturday afternoon watching cable on the couch, is becoming a thing of the past. The latest crop of romantic comedies have more than a meet cute and a big kiss at the end – they’re more honest, more crass, and more serious than ever before. Case in point: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s porn addiction saga Don Jon, which opens today, and follows a recent trend in the rom-com genre – a protagonist with a very serious problem.
Even fun movies are a little darker lately, and maybe that’s just a sign of the times – and maybe giving up the fluff isn’t such a bad thing. We know which romantic comedy tropes we’re ready to say goodbye to so here are five new ones we can’t wait to see more of.
Serious Issues: Romantic comedies can’t just be mindless fluff anymore — now, each one has to be dressed up with a SERIOUS ISSUE. We like cotton candy entertainment just as much as the next person, but the added weight in recent rom-coms adds a nice heft – and makes you feel less guilty for eating the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s. From Silver Linings Playbook grappling with mental illness to Thanks for Sharing and Don Jon exploring sex and porn addiction, these movies may feature a couple that’s MFEO (that’s made for each other if you’ve forgotten your Sleepless in Seattle lingo), but that’s not all viewers come away thinking about.
An Unexpected Leading Man: Hugh Grant may have been all that in the ‘90s, but these days a romantic comedy’s leading man can be much more unconventional (and realistic!) – which is only an upgrade for audiences. Whether it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt charming us in (500) Days of Summer (and Don Jon) or Steve Carell in Crazy Stupid Love; Seth Rogen in the way-sadder-than-expected Take This Waltz or even Mark Duplass in his mumblecore films, we’re loving the wide array of guys that the leading ladies are falling for.
Adventure Time : In a nice upgrade from the klutzy journalist-slash-publishing assistant trope, recent romantic comedies have had heroines with their own adventures going on, separate from finding a man. One of our favorites? Safety Not Guaranteed, which involved a mystery of sorts before the lady (Aubrey Plaza) fell for the (unexpected) leading guy. OK, so she’s still a budding journalist, but at least she gets to look into a real story and not, ahem, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Choreographed dance scene: The latest rom coms to come out are hardly the first to feature a dance montage – Singin’ in the Rain, anyone? – but moments like the ballroom competition scene in Silver Linings Playbook to Stevie Wonder or the Broadway-esque number in (500) Days of Summer give even the darkest of romantic comedies a light touch.
Name the indie band: Who doesn’t love discovering new music? Sure, Garden State started the trend with a Shins-heavy soundtrack back in 2004, but what about Sigur Ros’ tunes on We Bought a Zoo? And who knew much about Kimya Dawson before Juno?
What romantic comedy clichés are you happy to see more of? Do you want the old boy-meets-girl-makes-a-bet-wins-her-back trope to come back or does this new class of rom coms satisfy your romantic side?
— Compiled by Laura Hertzfeld and Erin Strecker