Rom Com Couch Time

You guys. This weeeaaatherrrrrrrr, right? I mean, I love Winter and being cosy and warm inside while it’s windy and cold outside, and snuggling on the couch with blankets and binging on TV for hours on end, but at the moment it’s just SO COLD and we still have two months to go! I know, I know, it’s not even really that cold for people in the northern hemisphere. We complain about the sun setting at 5.30pm and they deal with sunsets at 3pm and snow storms and not being able to go outside at all for months on end. Here in Melbourne we get rain, wind and some temperatures that they would probably consider positively balmy!

But I digress. One of the best things about Winter is chilling out with a movie, especially on the weekend, and I got to thinking the other day that in Winter I prefer to rewatch my favourites, just for that extra bit of comfort. And then I realised that of my long list of favourite films, they’re basically all romantic comedies. I mean, I am a female in my thirties, so it stands to reason that I love rom-coms. I am their key demographic, I suppose. So I thought it was high time I did a post on my favourites here on the blog, if only to help you make a wise choice when you’re on the couch next weekend looking for something to watch as the rain pours down and you realise you really, physically cannot leave the comfort of your heated lounge room and the cosy blanket you’re snuggled under.

Really, it’s a public service. You’re welcome.

The first film is my all time favourite film. The rest are in no particular order.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Can men and women really be just friends? Turns out, probably not, but you get a damn good script and some very funny moments as they try. Harry and Sally are aquainted when they drive across the country to New York after college. They bump into each other some years later at a bookstore and discover they they’ve both just been through a break up, so they strike up a friendship and help each other naviagte the waters of post-relationship dating. The thing I love about this film is their friendship. They’re unflinchingly honest, they genuinely care for each other, and they know how to have fun together on a platonic level. That’s really rare, I think. Of course, the fact that Nora Ephron wrote the script and Rob Reiner directed it help enormously, as I’m a huge fan of both of their bodies of work. And Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are perfect. Harry (Crystal) is forward, blunt, and very comedic, while Sally (Ryan) is wide-eyed, realistic, and cautiously optimistic. Their conversations, outings around Manhattan and funny asides make this film the ultimate romanitc comedy for me because it does truly have both comedy and romance. It’s basically what I measure all other rom-coms against and I’ve never seen anything that ticks all the boxes the way this film does.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
When this film came out I felt like it was an hilarious breath of fresh air. Not many films had been released in Hollywood that featured a European immigrant family (or had they? Please correct me if I’m wrong), and being half-Italian and having friends who are Greek I related to a LOT of this film (and recognised a LOT of the jokes/lines of dialogue as being very, very spot-on). Nia Vardalos’ one woman play of the same name was seen by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, which gave the film legs and the rest is history (highest grossing romantic comedy of all time history). Vardalos plays Toula, a mousy, quiet woman living at home with her Greek parents, working in the family’s Greek restaurant, who has all but accepted her fate as a single, uninteresting, overlooked woman who will never escape her family’s clutches. She turns her life around by going to community college, meets Ian (John Corbett) and begins secretly dating him. As you can tell from the film’s title, they fall in love and get married, but not without Toula having to carefully navigate the pre-wedding tension in her family as she prepares to marry a non-Greek man. The script is very, very clever, and the film itself is so perfectly nuanced with western European cultural references that many, many Greeks and Italians (and children of European migrants generally) will recognise. The ensemble cast is utterly brilliant – the perfect mix of overbearing, loud, Greek busybodies, and this is what makes the film so funny and so heartwarming. Watching them associate with Ian’s very WASPy family while still holding steadfast to their traditions in suburban Chicago is so refeshingly delightful, and if this film is on TV I will sit down and watch it no matter what I’m doing.

Serendipity (2001)
I didn’t see this film until a good five years or so after it came out. I don’t know why, it just wasn’t really on my radar for a long time, and then I realised that we had the DVD at home. I honestly don’t know why I started to watch it, but as soon as I did, I knew it would get repeated viewings over the years. There’s something about films that deal with missed connections, and fate, and lots of meant to be moments that suck me riiiiight in, and this film is the perfect example of all of those delicious movie tropes. Jon Cusack plays Jonathan, and Kate Beckinsdale plays Sara. Both are in serious relationships when they meet while trying to buy the same pair of gloves in Bloomingdale’s at Christmas. They get ice cream together at real new York restaurant Serendipity 3, then after leaving each return to collect something they have forgotten. Deciding this is fate, they spend an evening out and about in New York, and at the end part relunctantly without exchanging numbers. Jonathan writes his number down on a five dollar bill that Sara spends, and Sara writes her name and number down in a book that she promises to sell to a used bookstore the next day. Both of these actions are done on the basis that if they are meant to be together, these items will find their way into each other’s hand. They part again, and years later both become engaged to their respective partners, but as their weddings approach cold feet set in and they each embark on a search to find each other. What follows is a typical wild goose chase – each just missing the other without realising, and collecting interesting and amusing friends along the way (Eugene Levy in particular is a favourite of mine) as they try to force fate to reconnect them. This films is a little less hilarious than some other rom-coms, but there’s something about two people in New York desperately searching for a potential love of their life that I can’t get enough of. It’s still sweet and funny, and has a couple of quirky characters to keep things entertaining, but ultimately it’s just a sweet, cute film.

What’s Your Number? (2011)
This is a film I’ve found people either love or really dislike. I personally find it quite silly and funny, and have always enjoyed Anna Faris (her TV show Mom is quite funny). So when I was on maternity leave over four years ago, patiently waiting for my baby to arrive, I spent a bit of time quilting and sitting on the couch in front of the TV. This was one of the films I rented at the video shop (SO RETRO) and watched it twice because I found it so funny. Faris plays Ally, a young women who realises, after taking a stupid quiz in a glossy magazine that decrees that women who sleep with more than twenty men have trouble finding a husband, that she has slept with nineteen men. She makes a deal with herself not to sleep with anyone else until she meets “the one”, but slips up at her sister’s bachelorette party and sleeps with her former boss. Realising that she’s now at the number that makes her chances of finding a husband precariously slim (apparently), she decides to track down all her former boyfriends and one night stands to see if one of them was the one and she let him slip away. Her musician neighbour, Colin (Chris Evans) starts helping her out and together they begin to search for her former flames, often with awkwardly amusing results. The interesting mix of characters that make up the array of ex-boyfriends is varied and quite funny, while Ally’s naive belief that she can slot back into one of their lives without an issue is played nicely by Faris – she doesn’t seem too idiotic or desperate; rather, there’s a hopeful undercurrent to her panic that’s she’s missed her chance, which counters well against Colin’s gentle sarcasm as they search America for her potential lost love. This is a film that manages to be funny, flippant, and sweet the whole way through, and worth checking out if you want to see a rom-com from the last five years.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Hey look, another Nora Ephron film! Rob Reiner also has a small part in this film, FYI. You’ve surely seen this? You surely remember the scene where Annie (Meg Ryan) drives along listening to Sam (Tom Hanks) on the radio talking about “…magic”? Because I think 99% of you have seen this film, I won’t give a detailed run down of the plot. It’s basically about widower Sam, whose son Jonah calls a radio station to say that his dad needs a new wife. Annie hears it and becomes intrigued enough to go to Seattle to meet him, but chickens out. She also writes him a letter that her friend Becky mails without her knowledge, asking Sam to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. This film is SO romantic – falling in love with a voice on a radio? Then almost meeting him but chickening out? Ugh. I can barely take it. But I love it so much. Of course, the fact that Tom Hanks is in it is a HUUUUUUGE bonus for me, because you know how much I love him. Add to the sweet storyline the mix of supporting characters (Victor Garber’s scene where he and Hanks get emotional over a scene in Dirty Dozen is perfection), and it’s the perfect rom-com recipe. It’s bittersweet and funny and hopelessly romantic, and I will not let anyone tell me otherwise.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
I didn’t even have to Google the year this came out because I remember SO VIVIDLY going to see it at the movies it’s burned into my brain. This is the perfect teen rom-com. I tossed up between putting this one in or putting Clueless in, but this one won out. When new student Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) falls for Bianca Stratford (Larissa Oleynik), he learns the Stratford sisters are not allowed to date. A loophole to this rule becomes apparent, and Cameron and his friend Michael (David Krumholtz) begin scheming to get Bianca’s older sister, Kat, asked out on a date by hearthrob bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) so that he can date Bianca. Patrick tries to court the highly defensive Kat, with disastrous results, but….well, you know what happens. They spend more and more time together, they go to Prom, etc, etc. The thing about this film is that it just hit all the right notes – snarky female lead, bad boy who’s not really that bad, geeky dudes trying to win the girl, teen parties that get crashed, all set against the backdrop of a high school in the late nineties. A killer soundtrack and a very on-trend wardrobe for the cast and I fell for this film within the first fifteen minutes. I think it still holds up years later, and is a sweet example of Heath Ledger’s less dramatic work when he was still breaking in the Hollywood scene.

No Strings Attached (2011)
This film is incredibly similar to Friends With Benefits, another 2011 film, but since I saw this one first, and found it to be a little bit sharper, I wanted to include it here. Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are friends who have embark on a casual relationship of hooking up without the strings of the relationship stuff. Things work well for a little while, but Adam becomes jealous of the attention Emma receives from a colleague. After cooling things down, they reunite and continue to become more than just hook up buddies, until Emma’s reluctance at Adam’s efforts to make their arrangement into more of a relationship causes things to blow up. They spend time apart, and Emma’s stubbornness at continuously rebutting Adam’s advances slowly wears away as she realises how much she misses him. It’s a pretty formulaic film, and I watched it with low expectations, but I ended up finding Ashton Kutcher quite charming in it (probably a first time for that), and I thought the quirky little things his character does for Emma were quite clever and silly (making her a mixed tape for her when she has her period, aka a “period mix” really got me giggling). As irritating as I find characters who are CLEARLY in love with each other but continue to fight it, this film seemed to get it almost quite right. The ensemble cast is a strong mix of actors who know how to take their moment without too much comedic fanfare (Mindy Kaling and Lake Bell in particular were great), and the film as a whole knew how to wrap things up before the story got too predictable. An easy, entertaining watch and one that I had to include because despite only seeing it a couple of times, I found it hit the right notes with each viewing.

Dan in Real Life (2007)
I got tickets to a free preview screening of this film and loved it straight away. It’s less rom-com and more family dramady, but there are definite comedic moments, and the plot of (somewhat) forbidden love runs through it. Dan (Steve Carell) is a widower, and as the film opens he’s heading up to his parents’ big family home with his three daughters. The rest of his sibilings are there with their kids, making it a full house for the weekend. Dan happens to meet Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a local bookshop and is instantly smitten. However, he unhappily learns later on that Marie is actually the latest girlfriend of his younger brother Mitch. Crestfallen, Dan has to spend the rest of the weekend watching Mitch and Marie spend time together, and he goes out on a date with them and childhood friend Ruthie. After discovering that Marie also has feelings for Dan, they meet secretly to discuss their feelings and end up kissing in front of Dan’s entire family. Drama ensues as Marie leaves, ashamed, and Dan eventually decides to leave to find her and profess his feelings. The thing I love about this film is the family dynamic – they all clearly love spending time together, and are involved and nosy about each other’s lives but it never seems too overbearing. Dan’s relationship with his daughters is troubled and sweet at the same time, as he struggles to relate to each of them as they all move through their grief at losing their wife/mother. The romance part is subtle, but it’s there – you just have to be patient and look past all the family antics and noise. If this is ever on TV I have to watch it, and have thought numerous times that I need to buy the DVD. It’s such a well-written film, and there are so many touching, funny moments. Well worth seeing if you’re a Steve Carell fan.

You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Told you I love Nora Ephron films! I remember when this first came out I, as many others, thought there’s no way another Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film could be as amazing as Sleepless in Seattle. And it’s not. But it’s still great in a lot of other ways. It helps that the storyline involves this amazing thing called The Internet and Email, and focuses on both characters’ businesses, so it’s not completely centred around each characters’ search for love. In fact, both Kathleen (Ryan) and Joe (Hanks) are involved with other people. But they meet in a chatroom (remember those?) and begin trading daily emails without know who the other person is. At the same time, Kathleen’s independent bookstore is being driven out of business bu Joe Fox’s family business which happens to be a gigantic chain bookstore (again, remember those?). Via email, they decide to meet, but by a stroke of luck, Joe discovers who Kathleen is and manipulates the meeting to his advantage. The film is a cute and quirky story with some great supporting characters, and while it’s SO time stamped by the technology central to the plot, there’s something charming and satisfying about watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ characters fall in love with each other all over again. One of my all-time favourite rom-coms, hands down.

Honorable mentions
The Perfect Catch/Fever Pitch, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore
Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd
Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts
Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starring Jason Segel and Mila Kunis
Crazy Stupid Love, starring Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling
Shakespeare in Love, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Josephe Fiennes
Along Came Polly, starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston
Overboard, starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn

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