The Break-Up

Culture Warrior

Imagine what some of our most beloved romantic films would look like if they were made in the 21st century. Laura and Alec of David Lean’s Brief Encounter could have managed their secret meetups over text. Harry and Sally could have checked each others’ okcupid accounts before explaining every aspect of what they seek in a partner over a cross-country road trip. And Ilsa would never have had to get on that plane because, y’know, the war’s over. This is a fruitless endeavor, I know, but it brings one thing into light which poses both problems and opportunities for the contemporary romance film, specifically the romantic comedy: politics, economic conditions, shifting gender roles, and technological evolution means different kinds of relationships and, thus, different kinds of romantic movies. How can the 21st century romance film expect the wedding-bell-chiming happy ending to work in a society full of emerging adults who feel less and less of a need to get married? How can new romantic comedies account for the fact that today’s working professional must move constantly – putting all their human relationships at risk – in order to find a job that suits them without only making films about the uber-privileged? Will there ever be a mainstream romantic comedy featuring a non-monogomous or non-heteronormative protagonist? Several recent screen romances have attempted to tackle the changing nature of relationships – or, at least, the type of relationship typically depicted in the Hollywood romance.

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Hot off the heels of playing body swapping best friends with Ryan Reynolds in The Change-Up, Jason Bateman is gearing up to star in a best friends whose kids bone each other comedy with Vince Vaughn called The Insane Laws. Which I guess is some sort of play on the word in-laws. The story of the film is that Bateman and Vaughn’s characters are best friends whose lives have followed the exact path all the way up to their kids getting into and attending the same college. Sounds like a pretty ideal situation for best friends, right? Being there together, sharing everything, every step of the way. Well not once Bateman’s son gets a hold of Vaughn’s daughter and a pregnancy happens. That puts the lifelong friendship in what is sure (not sure?) to be hilarious upheaval.

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Culture Warrior

Modern romance and the movies are arguably dependant on one another, as movies have a long history of affirming the idea(l) of the perfect relationship. Hollywood movies in particular have developed a mastery at the formula of bringing imperfect individuals together into perfect couplehood and framing marriage as the closure of all previous conflicts and difficulties. Many romance movies, thus, teach us what romance and couplehood are or, perhaps more dauntingly, what it should be. That romantic films are a staple in the box offices of commercial movie theaters to reparatory screenings or are marathon’d on television every Valentine’s Day is evidence of our ritual association of considering real-life romances in fictional terms. It is rare that movies, especially Hollywood, seem to do the opposite: reflect the distinction between ideal romance and the ostensible “reality” of relationships in all their complexity, grittiness, slow development, necessary problems, and (most of all) subtlety. Perhaps the most evident turns cinema makes in this direction is in the break-up movie, that rare narrative that situates itself as a disruption from the normal mode of portraying couplehood through representing its antithesis, the dissolution of a couple. The most recent example is Blue Valentine, the great Cassavetes-style, character-driven psychodrama about a couple who continue making the wrong turns and can’t make it work despite, or because, of themselves. Breakup movies from the light – (500) Days of Summer – to the heavy – Blue Valentine – often self-consciously (either by testament from the filmmaker like in […]

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BaywatchMovie

The once-threatened Baywatch movie is moving forward, and it’s going to be a comedy!? Yes, an intentional one…

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published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
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