by Barry Morgan
You know how it goes. Guy meets girl. Obviously there’s a spark but nothing is said. There’s some obstacle blocking their happiness (usually him being a douche or he’s actually a zombie or trying to mine all her planet’s Unobtainium or whatever) He proves himself, everyone gets over it and they live happily ever vomit.
I’ve suffered through my fair share of these “Romantic Comedies” which are rarely neither romantic nor funny and I am so bored of seeing the exact same story being played out over and over.
Recently I sat down with my partner in crime to watch “Roman Holiday”. The film, which was shot in 1953 and earned 10 Oscar nominations, stared Gregory Peck and a little unknown ballet dancer called Audrey Hepburn in her very first Hollywood motion picture (for which she won Best Actress at the Oscars). It tells the story of a Princess who is on a state visit to Rome. Peck plays a journalist who is due to interview her. However the young princess, unhappy with her stately routine, decides to escape in the middle of the night to experience the real Rome. As luck would have it, who bumps into her only Greg Peck. Peck clicks that she’s the missing monarch and tells his editor he’s going give him the exclusive of a lifetime, and goes so far as to place a bet on it! Peck then brings his new (secretly Royal) friend and his photographer (the brilliant Eddie Albert) around the Eternal City seeing all the sights, oozing all the charm and sneakily taking all the front page pictures!
Instantly I knew where it was going to go.
She’d find out,
He’d be all “But I really love you”
She’ll be like “Ah here, leave it out”
He says “Fine, I won’t do the story”
She considers this, blinks a few times then finally bursts “Oh wow, you do love me! Let’s be together forever!” and maybe she’d even be as nice as to give him the interview so that he clears his debt.
But no. That’s not how it goes. I was genuinely surprised at the ending (it’s not a major twist like a nuclear explosion or she throws Peck to the lions in the Coliseum… Although that does sound quite entertaining!) But the ending is much more realistic and all the better for it. The script was written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo (whose name was stripped from the credits because he was blacklisted as a communist sympathiser in 1947) is handled so well by the main cast that the comedy is genuinely funny and the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn is palpable (being shot in Rome in black and white helps!…Although shooting on location didn’t help the abysmal “When in Rome”)
Fast forward 60 years and we have a movie released called I Give It A Year. Now while it is far from perfect, it takes the Romcom formula and twists it ever so slightly that it feels fresh! The director Dan Mazer, describes it not an Anti-Romcom but a subversion of the typical Romcom. The film picks up after Nat (Rose Burn) and Josh (Rafe Spall) have their fairytale wedding after just a few months of knowing each other. We see the realities of living together verses their preconceptions of married life. And to make matters even worse temptation rears it’s quite attractive head in the form of the new boss (Simon Baker) and the ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris). Never before in a romcom have I been so split about which happy ending I wanted to see (There are a surprising selection from which to route for) as well as the typical “Inappropriate Best Friend” played this time around with gleeful delight by Stephen Merchant. I left the cinema, not thinking it was the best movie I have ever seen, but grateful, happy and excited that I had see something different and yet still a romcom. So I hope this is new era in Hollywood where they begin to think outside the formula, even just ever so slightly, and look back to great films like “Roman Holiday” and see what they achieved sixty years before. Cinema and their audiences deserve better than what we’ve grow accustomed to. Studios need to remember if you use the same recipe, you’ll get the same dish and no one wants one dish for the rest of their lives.