Romantic Comedies:
The Plots,the Truth,
and the Films that Made it

By Cristina De Leon

Hugh Grant, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Richard Gere, Drew Barrymore, and Sandra Bullock – sound familiar? These recognized names are the individuals, who have played a significant role in the recent years of the movie industry, as their names have become synonymous to “romantic comedies.”

The typical romantic comedy fans purchase a movie ticket in hopes to leave the cinema feeling uplifted and entertained. However, in the back of their minds, they know what they are really getting themselves into. At some point during the film, they will laugh with the characters, sob at the couple’s fights, support the protagonist in the story, formulate a crush with the lead actor or actress, realize love lessons, reflect upon their own relationships, and essentially, fall in love with the entire movie.

As a writer begins to create a script for a possible romantic comedy or finish a final draft before it is sent off to producers, he or she may want to check out this list of eight categories of romantic comedies. This list will hopefully help the aspiring writer to discover which kinds of romantic comedies to stick to or which ones to avoid.

1.    A Mix of Love Stories: “Love Actually,” “Valentine’s Day”

Both of these films have separate love stories merged into one film. The audience views each love story and the film cuts to each story, to discover what ultimately happens to each couple. This is a unique way to set up the film, as viewers can select which relationship is most relatable and which they find most fascinating.

2.    Sadly, no “Happily Ever After…”: “The Break-Up”

The ending was not well received by critics in the test screening, as the two characters never get back together. Nevertheless, the film illustrates the reality of the fact that sometimes relationships just do not work out.

3.    “In Sickness and In Health…”: “50 First Dates,” “A Walk to Remember”

These two movies show that love is omnipotent. Despite Drew Barrymore’s character having memory loss and Mandy Moore’s character having leukemia, their significant others remain faithful and continue to love their wives unconditionally.

4.    Falling in Love Through a Bet: “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “10 Things I Hate About You”

Kate Hudson’s character promises her boss to write an article about how to drive a man crazy by pushing him away. Heath Ledger’s character is paid to make a woman fall in love with him. In both cases, the couples realize their true feelings for one another, in spite of the lies and negotiations.

5.    Destined to be in Love: “You’ve Got Mail,” “Sleepless in Seattle”

In the first film, the characters own and operate rival businesses and in the second film, the characters never meet and only communicate through a radio talk show. The couples manage to fall deeply in love, despite business conflicts and long-distance, respectively.

6.    Based on a Novel: “The Notebook,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Nick Cassavetes and Blake Edwards are able to direct our favorite romance books, “The Notebook” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” respectively and manage to turn them into beautifully crafted films.

7.    Unique Screenplay: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

This film is not a typical love story, as it incorporates science fiction with romance. The characters in this film decide to erase the memories of their past relationship together, yet when they do meet again, they instantly fall for one another. When they discover what had happened in the past, they decide to give love a second chance.

8.    Fallen in love through an arrangement: “Pretty Woman,” “Music and Lyrics,” “The Proposal”

Whether the characters got together because their relationship emerged as a business deal, songwriter partners, or a forced marriage because of immigration problems, these films had alluring plots, which made viewers yearn to get the characters to fall for one another.

Though all of the aforementioned films have different storyline details, they all share a common overall plot. The typical structure of a romantic comedy can be traced to William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which have tremendously influenced the romantic comedy genre for centuries. A romantic comedy usually involves two main characters (usually opposite genders), who meet in an unexpected way. After some period of time, they begin to fall in love and the audience is able to witness the progress of their relationship. The couple also undergoes some type of conflict, which significantly distresses their relationship. However, usually in the end, the two unite and kiss passionately, with the camera tracking out to capture the romantic atmosphere.

After the audience sees a romantic comedy, Bill Johnson in his article, “The Art of the Romantic Comedy,” explains that these movies portray three things to the viewers: “true love does exist; there’s someone out there just for us, and if we could only find them, we would experience true love; and lastly, romance can overcome all obstacles.” Though these are all wise and inspiring statements, do romantic comedies really leave viewers with accurate reflections about love?

Studies show that romantic comedies cause couples to compare their own relationships to the characters’ in the films. In Perri Nemiroff’s article, “Statistics Show the Romantic Comedies Ruin Relationships,” “half of the 1,000 people polled [in an Australian survey] blame the gushy and unrealistic stories for destroying their personal romances. One in four said they felt as though they were expected to know what their partner was thinking while one in five claim the movies made their partners expect gifts regardless of an occasion.” Nemiroff further discusses the “fairytale love story” theme in romantic comedies. “Why can't I magically be paired up with the right guy like in “The Holiday?” Why won't my man serenade me like Robbie Hart in “The Wedding Singer?” … Before you know it, the fact that you haven't… had your dream guy give you your first kiss in front of hundreds of people a la “Never Been Kissed” is a bit disheartening.” Nemiroff’s humorous and possibly valid comments do indeed question the value and reality of the message of romantic comedies.

So, do romantic comedies really ruin relationships? Or, can these films be watched for mere pleasure and delight for avid fans of romantic love stories? Whatever the case is, viewers of their favorite genre can simply enjoy the love story of two unique characters and keep in mind the fine line between optimism and realism.  

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About The Author

Cristina De Leon Cristina I. De Leon is currently interning for the summer at Raindance. She enjoys helping them advertise their courses and working in her favorite city, London!

Though originally from the Philippines, she is an incoming sophomore at Boston College. According to her, she aspires to come back and work in London in the future.

In her spare time, she enjoys being with family and friends, dancing, playing tennis, “ creating and designing stuff,” and oh yes – watching films, of course.





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Romantic Comedies: The Plots, the Truth, and the Films that Made it