mon 17/01/2022

Romantic Comedy review - a not-so-guilty pleasure | reviews, news & interviews

Romantic Comedy review - a not-so-guilty pleasure

Romantic Comedy review - a not-so-guilty pleasure

Elizabeth Sankey's tough yet passionate look at the joys and flaws of romcoms

Every great love story ever told, all in one place

Only those who really love you can deliver the hard truths, and for filmmaker Elizabeth Sankey, that one love is romantic comedies. Better known as one half of band Summer Camp, Sankey is a self-confessed romcom expert, having watched nearly every film from the 80s onwards.

It was her happy place, but in this new visual essay on MUBI, she breaks down the huge number of problematic tropes that fill the genre.

There are certain rules that nearly every romantic comedy abides by. There are the female-led films, with straight, middle-class, white women defined by their weight and career, until they realise what they really want is the perfect marriage. Then there’s the male-led films, with immature man-children, finally winning over the idealised “chill” girl through obsessive persistence. Hundreds of films, all variations on the same flawed formula.

Through voice over, interviews and a remarkable amount of archive footage, Sankey reveals the damaging impact these romantic fantasies can have on impressionable minds. Should a young girl really follow the example of Julia Roberts’ lying stalker in While You Were Sleeping? Or perhaps How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which suggests the worst girlfriend is one that shows care and has their own interests?

The presentation is an intoxicating mix of lush music and greatest hits

Paradoxically, the films are heavily written from the male gaze, yet are constantly looked down on by male critics. This is why filmmakers will occasionally disguise a romantic comedy as something more serious, like David O Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, an Oscar-winning film that hits every romcom beat.

So, if they’re flawed and uncool, why does Sankey still love them? Because they’re a Disneyland of the heart, somewhere you wouldn’t want to live, but nice for a brief visit. Romance and happy endings are wonderfully human, and this genre is the finest purveyor.

For film buffs, there’s nothing particularly new in Sankey and co.’s theories, but the presentation is an intoxicating mix of lush music and greatest hits. Despite the criticism, the documentary is clearly made with reverence to the genre, full of bright colours and uplifting montages.

Romantic Comedy doesn’t pull its punches, but like all great romcoms, reveals a soft heart beneath a steely exterior. Sankey hopes for a resurgence of the genre, but one that subverts the tropes into new forms, such as Ruby Sparks or God’s Own Country. There may even be an original script in Sankey’s future, but for now, this is an enjoyable dive into a much-maligned genre.


The films are heavily written from the male gaze, yet are constantly looked down on by male critics


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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