The state of the romantic comedy

Richard Brody, perhaps the most interesting film critic working now (ironically he is relegated almost entirely to the online blog or Talk About Town sections of The New Yorker while colleagues David Denby and Anthony Lane split the weekly movie reviews), discusses romantic comedies with an aside on the new movie Sex Tape.

The modern romantic comedy is stretched on the rack of a dichotomy, one that I wrote about here a few years ago: the possibility of a polar disconnect between love and desire, between a meeting of the minds and a connection of the bodies. The classic romance, whether comic or tragic, is built on desire igniting a conflict that has to be resolved for a relationship to grow; modern romance is based on the premise of emotional and intellectual compatibility, the effort to kindle the sparks of love from friendship.

From the article linked in that excerpt:

In our time, the problem isn’t finding a reason to act on attraction (though Eric Rohmer has given us plenty of reasons not to), it’s whether there’s a point to having a relationship afterwards—it isn’t getting together but staying together. We’re forthright enough about desire to distinguish it from the many other things that life is made of; it’s necessary but not sufficient. The twist of “Knocked Up” is that desire quickly yields to practicalities; the terrible pathos of “Funny People” is that fierce mutual desire turns out not to be enough. The title of “The Royal Tenenbaums” could be (with apologies to Hal Hartley) “Surviving Desire.” What makes modern romance complicated is that our expectations are surprisingly high—they take in desire and four-syllable words, a meeting of the minds as well as an erotic charge. And the wisdom of our modern-day romantics, whether Judd Apatow or Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach or James Gray or Peyton Reed, is not Hitchcock’s but Joe E. Brown’s (rather, Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond’s): “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

The increased expectations for marriage is a topic I've covered here before:

Our expectations of our spouses have been lifted to new heights, and it's only natural that the romantic comedy would start to reflect that.

Incidentally, Grantland spent all of last week on romantic comedies, and a related piece of note is Wesley Morris' essay Knocked Out: Have romantic comedies become obsolete?