Photo: Rom-Com Watchlist-La La Land Poster-Source:IMDb
The romantic comedy – as central a part of the modern mythos of Valentine’s Day as heart-shaped chocolate boxes and Teddy bears. It’s a genre with a time-tested formula, one that is, more often than not, simple and predictable. Yet the relative homogeneity of the rom-com, as it is affectionately known, does nothing to impact our gleeful enjoyment of them. As such, you may understandably be in the mood for a fun rom-com romp this Valentine’s Day. If you need any recommendations, look no further. Read on for a spoiler-free list of films that will give you exactly the airy, romantic mood you’re looking to get into this week, from long-time staples to contemporary tour-de-forces.
“You’ve Got Mail” (1998)
Do you also miss a time before Instagram tried to sell you ceramic kitchenware? A time when you weren’t forced to see the opinions of flat-earthers or Moon landing skeptics? “You’ve Got Mail” is a charmingly antiquated movie, in the sense that watching it feels like stepping out of a time machine. The enchanting whirr of dial-up modems and perfect use of punctuation in instant messaging brings you back to a time when the internet was not all-encompassing. Starring the ever-affable Tom Hanks and rom-com queen Meg Ryan, this classic enemies-to-lovers tale is sure to hook you in with its endearing characters and sharp writing. Watching two grown adults coyly flirt with each other over email is simply a wonderful experience, especially when brought to life by schmaltzy narrations and drawn-out shots of the main characters emotively writing their messages. “You’ve Got Mail” is a quintessential comfort film for the holiday, if for no other reason than to bask in the aesthetic splendor of 1990s New York.
“La La Land” (2016)
“But I don’t like musicals!” I hear you cry. Well, I didn’t either, until I watched this masterpiece. “La La Land” is a film so energetically atmospheric that you’ll want to jump into its world and never leave. Its portrayal of 21st-century Hollywood is done with all the glitz, glamor, and romance of the silver screen. This powerhouse, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is theatrical in a very literal sense — its lighting, set design and musical acts are all reminiscent of a meticulously crafted stage play rather than a screenplay. The songs subsequently range from percussive jams to somber instrumental ballads. As a matter of fact, that reminds me of something that bears mentioning with “La La Land.” This is no traditional rom-com in the sense that it is an emotionally low-commitment affair. Rather, “La La Land” is a film that will very likely make you want to rip your heart out and tenderize it like a 12 oz. New York strip steak. This one is not all peaches and cream — you have been warned. For those prepared to be mentally wrecked, though, “La La Land” is not only one of the greatest romance films ever made, but one of the very best cinematic experiences of the past twenty years.
“Sleepless in Seattle” (1993)
Another 1990s rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? Isn’t that like, a hat on a hat? Well, not when the movie is as charming as this. “Sleepless in Seattle” is an interesting take on the rom-com formula given that the two main love interests actually have very few interactions for most of the runtime. Worry not, though, as their romantic woes are revealed thoughtfully and entertainingly through careful character development. As the name might imply, “Sleepless in Seattle” brings the northwestern city to life in all its cloudy, rainy glory. Tom Hanks’ house in particular is a gorgeous set piece, being right on the bayside with a large porch over the reflective water. Using a radio show as its inciting incident, “Sleepless in Seattle” is another staple of that intangible 1990s charm. With the climax of this film taking place on Valentine’s Day in New York City, there’s hardly a more timely viewing of the rom-com classic than this week.
“500 Days of Summer” (2009)
A film perhaps more concerned with the emotional ramifications of infatuation rather than with true love, “500 Days of Summer” is no less one of the most enjoyable rom-coms of the 21st century. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel shine in this expertly-written examination of a troubled romance. The film offers more contemporary looks at classic ideals, questioning whether it’s truly fate that brings people together, or if there’s any such thing as “the one.” As the title suggests, “500 Days of Summer” takes place over the course of 500 days in Tom and Summer’s rollercoaster relationship. The sequencing of the film is deliberately nonlinear, which adds to the intrigue and impact of certain scenes as they are presented to you. Thus, your takeaway from the film will be reliant upon both your interpretation of its events and your worldview as a whole. Was Tom right? Or was he wrong? What about Summer? A rom-com that, more than most, elicits inspired discussion about love and what it truly means, “500 Days of Summer” is a fascinating and excellent contemporary narrative.
“When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
When most people hear the term “rom-com,” this is the film they immediately think of. This timeless Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan romp is genre-defining in every sense. The grandiosity-yet-coziness of New York City, poignant-yet-hilarious writing and enrapturing performances… All of this is to say, if you haven’t seen this one yet, what are you doing? It’s the enemies-to-lovers story arc firing on every single cylinder, executed to its absolute peak. “When Harry Met Sally” devotes itself entirely to fleshing out the relationship between Crystal and Ryan’s characters, an effort that pays off exponentially as the film progresses. Taking place over the course of years, their bond is treated with patience, detail, and realism by the purposeful and clever writing. “When Harry Met Sally” isn’t formulaic — it is the formula.
And there you have it! A collection of just a few rom-coms to get you in the groove this Valentine’s Day. No matter how you plan on spending the holiday, whether it be with a significant other, a dear friend, or your family, be sure to remember what it’s all about – love! No matter who, no matter why, no matter how, use this Valentine’s Day to tell the people in your life that you love them. Love is what makes life worth living after all, right?
Carlo Constantine is a second-year Political Science major. CC1031591@wcupa.edu