Now available on DVD/VOD:
SXSW, CPH:DOX, Sheffield, AFI Fest, Hamptons, Göteborg, Glasgow
An essay film exploring the romantic comedy film genre.
Like any genre, the romantic comedy trades on audience comfort and familiarity, recycling tropes, stock character types, situations, and, in most cases, a happy ending that usually involves marriage for its female protagonist. Recently married herself, filmmaker Elizabeth Sankey approached the genre wondering why this is the end goal, and how this – and its representation of women and men -informs viewers’ ideas about gender and relationships in real life. To explore these questions, she assembles a supercut of clips from more than 160 films, going as far back as the 1930s, accompanied by close readings and commentary in voiceover from Sankey, filmmakers, critics, and others, parsing unrealistic portrayals of women, borderline psychopathic behavior by their suitors, the denigration of women’s careers in favor of relationships, and limited or stereotypical inclusion of non-white, non-heterosexual characters. Sankey makes many valid arguments, and, by the nature of the project, brings a level of scholarly insight and validation to a genre that is often too-quickly dismissed, but she also makes some missteps. A digression about GOD’S OWN COUNTRY doesn’t really belong – while a romance, it is in no way a comedy – and she purposefully ignores or simplifies the occasional film plot to fit her thesis, as in her discussion about the explicitly anti-rom-com 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. Despite this, she has crafted a thoughtful project that is also thought-provoking, one that both serves as a tribute to the genre and points to how it could and should evolve.