Netflix is Ushering in a New Era Of Romantic Comedies

A neglected genre sees new life with hits ‘Set it Up’ and ‘To All The Boys I Loved Before.’
By  · Published on August 24th, 2018

A neglected genre sees new life with hits ‘Set it Up’ and ‘To All The Boys I Loved Before.’

At the end of 2017, Netflix promised they would have more than 80 new films on tap for 2018. A bold promise, but with a cursory look at the already released and slated films for the rest of the year, Netflix has more than 70 titles. They’ve been dabbling in a little of everything from horror and comedy to drama and romance. One of the categories in which they have found their niche is the romantic comedy, especially when it comes to two original movies, Set it Up and To All The Boys I Loved Before.

Neither movie reinvents the wheel, but they offer something that has been missing in Hollywood as of late. Outside Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood has been gun shy on the romantic comedy. There are a few remakes here and there, but the genre is far removed from the late ’90s when films like 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That were entertaining the masses. That’s how Netflix’s offerings come across as more than another flash in the pan. They are something we have had little of.

Set it Up has plenty of tropes we can expect from a romantic comedy. The two leads, played by Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell, have a signature meet-cute moment. They interact by fighting over food to feed their bosses. This leads to the crux of the entire film, their playing matchmaker with the bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) so they won’t have to work as hard.

Liu was asked by Entertainment Weekly about Hollywood being less than eager to make romantic comedies. She thinks that popular film is in “a real movement towards Marvel and comic books right now and focusing on superheroes.” On a whole, that might be true, but Set It Up has brought renewed interest to a genre that was thought to be the exclusive domain of The Hallmark Channel.

Romantic comedies live and die by the chemistry of the leads. It is helpful that Deutch and Powell are wonderful together, but there is also a signature scene that ties everything together. There has already been plenty written about the pizza scene, but what makes it great is how effortless it looks. Two friends going up on a fire escape to an apartment, the pizza in jeopardy of being ruined. Reaching the bedroom becomes a success and digging into that delectable pizza is only the appetizer. It’s a sequence that shows that even the most mundane moments can be memorable.

To All The Boys I Loved Before had plenty of roadblocks coming to fruition. The biggest of all was the race of the lead character, Lara Jean (Lana Condor). According to Vulture, every producer that author Jenny Han meet with asked to whitewash the main character. There is even a knock against the racist Long Duk Dong character in Sixteen Candles. Nothing like one teen romance taking another to task. It is wonderful that Lana Condor got the part as Lara Jean in the end, because she is delightful in the picture.

The premise has Lara Jean engaging in a fake relationship with school jock Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Lara Jean wants to forget about her feelings for her older sisters’ ex-boyfriend, while Peter wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. It is a familiar trope, but the characters come together in a way that feels natural.

Similar to Set It Up, To All The Boys I Loved Before has a steamy sequence that has everyone excited. Lara Jean recognizes that her feelings for Peter might be real and she will see what this relationship is for the two of them. She gets into a hot tub that Peter is relaxing in and it looks as though everything will be just fine. Except what is a movie like this without drama?

Given Netflix’s release model, these movies can thrive. With a tiny budget, Set it Up and To All The Boys I Loved Before can bring a lot of eyes to the service without the big theater release. Netflix doesn’t reveal viewing numbers, but there is one way to know how these movies have been received: social media buzz. There have been admirers for both movies, and audiences are hungry for more.

Netflix has found success with their romantic comedy offerings. They will take a gamble on the pictures despite Hollywood choosing to go in another direction. This is paying off in a big way. Netflix has two of the best offerings in the genre in a long time this year, making legions of new fans. Maybe Hollywood should take notice.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.