Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Internal Conflict at the Movies

I used to love romantic comedies at the movies. In fact one question Molly asked me not long after we met and I confessed I didn't love reading romance was, "Why the contradiction? Why do you love romantic comedies at the movies, but not in books?" I didn't really have an answer at the time, and all I could come up with is a book is a bigger time commitment than a movie.

But I actually think that discovering and reading romance ruined my enjoyment of rom com movies. After reading some great romance novels and learning how to analyze them, I expect too much. I can spot the silly coincidences and weak internal conflicts and contrived external conflicts. Not to mention the "big misunderstandings".

Last week I mentioned that the only thing I've heard come out of Michael Hauge's mouth during presentations that I didn't agree with, or didn't want to agree with, is that he claims that all romantic comedies (American ones, anyway) NEED a big misunderstanding. He believes that's the main plot point they all hang on.

And maybe that started to ruin rom coms for me, too... because he was kind of right. Not in that they NEEDED to have them, IMO. Just that almost all of them did rely on one.

No internal conflict, just a big lie or misunderstanding keeping the couple apart.

But my faith in my love of romance at the movies was re-awoken this week by two movies. Friends with Benefits and Crazy, Stupid Love.

Friends with Benefits wasn't the best movie I've ever seen or anything, but I did believe the internal conflict and actually thought it was a strong internal conflict. And there isn't a "big misunderstanding". Sure, we hit a point where if the couple actually had a honest conversation, all would be right, but the reasons for each of them not wanting to have the conversation were completely believable given their internal conflicts. Each was believably terrified of admitting what they really felt and opening themselves up to hurt. And the one who caves and grovels is the one who should and it's really kind of perfect. (If contrived... but still so cute.)

Justin Timberlake is turning into a half decent actor and Mila Kunis is WAY better than I ever thought she'd be based on the one season of That Seventies Show that I watched. So, ya, I definitely give that movie a "worth a rental for sure" rating.

Then tonight I saw Crazy, Stupid Love. And it's a better film. Really well written. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen most of the funny parts and normally that makes me crazy, but it really isn't a comedy, or doesn't rely on being a comedy, so it doesn't matter that they blew some of the jokes with the advertising. Sure, there are tons of smiles in the movie, but really it's more of a heart warming film.

It has two romances. Actually three, I guess... One between a married couple who are divorcing and one between a womanizer and a smart, witty girl who doesn't buy his line. The third, well, I think it's spoilerish, so I won't say. The second romance (between Gosling and Stone) sounds like it's cliche but it really doesn't come off that way.

I think there are a few reasons for this. First, it's a subplot -- it's not carrying the movie. Second, the acting is stellar -- Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Third, the writing is stellar -- Dan Fogelman. Fourth, and I think this is the main reason, and it's highly dependent on both #2 and #3, and that is -- we actually see the couple falling in love. That is, we're shown a scene in which we believe this couple is falling in love. And it's not just a montage of running on the beach. In fact, not at all. It's a planned one night stand where nothing goes the way you (or either character) assumes it will go and ends up so perfectly coming full circle that I don't want to say how and ruin it.

The movie also has a major plot twist that for a change, I did not see coming -- at all.

I give Crazy, Stupid Love a "worth going out and seeing in theatres" rating. :) Oh, and another nice little surprise in this movie was one of the main secondary characters was a former contestant from America's Next Top Model, Analeigh Tipton. I just looked her up and it says she placed third in "cycle 11). And... drumroll... she was good in this. I totally believed her. And she has an important pivotal part.

It was so nice to see movies with smart romances that were also entertaining.


Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - interesting because I also recently saw (older films) but romcoms that I thought delivered more than the usual.

No Strings Attached - (same premise as FWB) - but again an internal conflict in the heroine that I think we're meant to understand comes from her relationship with her father. Finally! An internal conflict.

The other one was - (can't think of the name) but Heigle and Dummel and they end up with their best friends baby after the parents die. Corny set up. Enemies to lovers kind of a story. But I liked this one because the characters weren't cookie cutter. And even at the end... the decision to stay together or move seemed real to me.

I take this as a positive sign because I also love romcoms but was getting so tired of bad Jennifer Anniston moves. (Sorry Jen!)

Eileen said...

There was an article recently in Entertainment Weekly about why it's hard to make a decent rom com. There were lots of factors, some content-related and some more acting/movie-making-related.

I haven't seen any that I've really liked lately. I watched Knight and Day with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise and it was meh. Cruise was crazy charming, but none of the rest of it worked. Saw The Bounty Hunter (yes, it was Jen) and it was also meh.

I'd be thrilled to see a good one. You know which one I often think about and smile? It was called something like Fools Rush In and it had Matthew Perry and Selma Hayek. I loved it.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, I loved Fools Rush In, too, Eileen.

I haven't seen either of those movies, Steph. And they're the type of movie I normally like to see when I really need a break. Glad they worked, too. Maybe I'll watch on pay-per-view.

In FWB the internal conflicts worked so well together... She's a hopeless romantic, waiting to get swept off her feet and determined not to make the same mistakes as her free-love-ex-hippy mother. Timberlake's conflict... well, I think revealing some of his backstory/motivation is spoilerish. Because he comes off as shallow at the start, like the cliche of "can't commit", but there are layers to humanize him and explain his motivation and they all make sense... And then it also makes sense when he's afraid he won't be able to be the prince charming his f-buddy is looking for.

And in Crazy, Stupid Love all the conflicts come together so perfectly, with all three romance plots smashing together in such a great way. But hard to describe w/o big spoiler.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm really excited about Crazy Love - and I'll watch Justin Timberlake do just about anything so that will be a good rental.

I don't buy that it's hard to make a good rom com, I just think that it's easy to ruin them. You need really good actors - those Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies were so good because in part the writing was top notch but because those guys could convey in a longing look all the things that need to be conveyed in a longing look... that's my take on it this morning any way.

I watched part of Date Night yesterday - about as good a twist on a rom com as we could get - loved it.

Anonymous said...

Stupid, crazy love looks amazing and based on this, I'd work hard to see it in the theatres.

And I loved, loved, Date Night, but then again, I think it spoke to my life in a fundamental way.

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