If you delve into RomCom culture (which is like… probably a real thing, right?), you’ll find different tiers of Romantic Comedies. First, the well-respected, critically acclaimed classics. There you have your Annie Hall, your When Harry Met Sally, your Breakfast at Tiffany’s, maybe even your Sleepless in Seattle.
Then, there are those box office hits that are not technically cinematic masterpieces. If you ask a lady what her favorite romantic comedy is, she may say one of those top-tier movies, but then she’ll pause for a second and say “You know what my REAL favorite is?” Then she’ll say something like You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill, or Love Actually.
Next tier: guilty pleasures. These are the filler films or teen comedies that you can’t help but love – and everyone else does, too. Enter 10 Things I Hate About You, 13 Going On 30 … probably anything with a number in the title, or that is on heavy rotation on TBS.
Finally we hit the focus of today’s post: the underrated RomCom. Those movies you adore, but that nobody ever really talks about when they talk about RomComs. Sometimes it’s because they don’t get classified as romantic comedies even though they are, and sometimes it’s because nobody has seen them. And we’re not ashamed to say they’re some of our favorites.
Away We Go
This is an atypical romantic comedy because it’s not a boy-meet-girl, boy-loses girl scenario. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph play a committed couple with a baby on the way, and they make a journey to decide where and how to raise their daughter. It raises the much more interesting follow-up question to “will they end up together?”: how will they build a life together? Instead of watching a couple grapple with their love for another, that’s a given from the beginning – but just like in real life, that’s not the answer to every question. A perfect movie if your concept of love goes beyond wondering who you’ll end up with.
I can’t understate how much I loved Crossing Delancey as a kid, and how much I still love it now. It sounds typical enough: Izzy Grossman (Amy Irving) works at a bookstore, and her bubbie uses a marriage broker to set her up with a pickle salesman. But does Izzy end up with him or the high-profile author? I mean, you already know. But that’s never the point. The reason this movie always seemed so special: Izzy could be me or someone I know. She’s good at her job, but she’s not that stick-up-her-butt RomCom lady who’s so caught up in her professional life that she’ll never accept love. She’s funny, but she’s not a sad-sack gal who trips a lot. If you want to watch a reasonably realistic lady fall in love in a very 1980s Lower East Side, this is the one for you.
I know that this one is underrated because whenever I call out my “Crossing Delancey bangs” when the humidity monster hits, nobody ever gets the reference.
They Came Together
If you love RomComs, you might not be interested in a mean-spirited takedown of the genre, but They Came Together isn’t that. It just plays up all of those silly RomCom elements we’ve come to love. It was billed as a parody of romantic comedies, but it felt more like a pastiche. Oh. And did I mention that it stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler? She works in a candy shop (of course) and he works for Big Candy. Her name is Molly, and I’m not just saying this because it’s my name – it’s such a RomCom name. You know how most 20- and 30- something women have names like Melissa and Courtney, but RomCom ladies all have names from Little Golden Books, like Molly or Annie or Sally? And he’s vaguely Jewish, but not kippah-every-day Jewish. They hate each other, until they love each other, and I’m sure you can guess the rest.
Please just trust me here. If your write out the plot summary – boy and girl meet, she’s attached,
he’s a boy wizard, they have obvious chemistry, and they decide to be friends – it doesn’t sound like much. But do any RomComs sound like much? This one succeeds on its clever writing and the great chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. It sounds like a picky thing, but a lot of romantic comedies have major pacing issues, devoting 50 minutes into convincing you this couple should be together, and then some weird misunderstanding for 20 minutes… I don’t know what it is, but director Michael Dowse nails the pacing and that really contributes to how downright enjoyable this movie is.
This one wasn’t underrated by critics – they loved it! – or by audiences – they loved it too! – but it’s a bit underrated as a RomCom. When the media started billing Obvious Child as an “abortion comedy,” I think people expected something political or hard-edged. What it is, instead, is a very sweet comedy that speaks to what it’s like to be in your late 20s, a time so full of awkward growing pains that it almost feels like a second adolescence. Donna (Jenny Slate) doesn’t have a high-powered job or a flashy wardrobe. But she does work hard at her fledgeling standup career, dresses nicely on stage, and has a tidy apartment. That is: Donna’s life is a mess for a while, but you don’t believe that she, as a person, is a mess, at least not for the long-term. And her love interest, Max, is what I believe old people call “cute as a bug’s ear.”
I remember seeing an interview where either Slate or director Gillian Robespierre (can’t remember!) said she loved Crossing Delancey too, so there’s my RomCom advice. Find out who loves your own underrated favorites, then watch whatever they come up with.
Midnight In Paris
If you were a certain kind of kid, you probably went through a phrase where you thought time travel would be the coolest thing ever. That’s what happens here, as Gil (Owen Wilson) travels between present-day Paris and the city in the 1920s, where he meets the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Josephine Baker and a host of others. The glitz and wackiness of the roaring 20s is fantastic, and you see the perils of nostalgia through the eyes of a modern man finally getting to experience his favorite era. Midnight In Paris is a lot of fun and a true cinematic rarity: a Woody Allen movie that does not star Woody Allen.
Celeste and Jesse Forever
I went into the theater to see this by myself, thinking I was in for a fun romantic comedy featuring two of the greatest people, Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones. While the movie does include romance and comedy, I wasn’t prepared for the drama part of it. I’m not going to spoil it for you, because I think everyone should see this film, but just have tissues by your side in the event of an emergency. So giving you the info I was given before seeing the movie, Celeste and Jesse met in high school and married young, but at the beginning of the film, we meet them in the midst of a divorce. There are twists and turns that you might not expect, but it has all the elements of my ultimate favorite kind of film – the RomComDram (Romance-Comedy-Drama, if you didn’t crack that code). Also the soundtrack is reason to go alone. When you’re Quincy Jones’ daughter, you have to have excellent taste in music.
Down With Love
One of the queens of the RomCom world, Bridget Jones herself, Renee Zellwegger stars as Barbara Novak, an author who advocates female independence, most notably in her book Down With Love. Set in the 1950s, Barbara encourages ladies to enjoy sex without commitment, and meets her enemy (potential match?) in Ewan MacGregor’s Catcher Block, a notorious ladies’ man and overall chauvinist pig. What I love about this movie is that is basically a parody of all those classic Doris Day-y comedies that were made in the ’50s, so when you watch it, you have to keep in mind that it’s not being entirely serious. I’m a sucker for this era of music, and yet again, the soundtrack pushes it over the edge and even I fell head over heels in love with the film.
Maybe it’s because Jimmy Fallon’s in it. Maybe it’s because I just really enjoy Drew Barrymore. Maybe it’s because the film is set/filmed in Boston. All I know is that Fever Pitch is not only one of my most underrated RomComs of all time, but it’s one of the most underrated movies of all time, IMO. Jimbo plays Ben, a teacher who, like many New England-ers, is a die-hard Red Sox fan. He meets Lindsey, who is a super-businesswoman who could care less for the Sox. Clearly Ben, who sleeps in Sox sheets and has a replica of the Green Monster in his apartment, lets his love for the team get in the way of any relationship, especially the one with Lindsey, despite the fact she’s obviously the love of his life. As an added bonus to this hilar and romantic love story, the movie actually ends with victory in more ways than one. Go Sox.
On the Line
As a BSB fan, I was ashamed that I even watched On the Line, which starred Lance Bass and Joey Fatone. But as a teenybopper, I felt it was my duty to watch this film, no matter how horrible I thought it would be. I mean, it’s a story that’s been told before – boy meets girl on subway. Boy puts up flyers and classified ads to find girl. Boy and girl nearly miss each other at Al Green concert. JT & Chris Kirkpatrick show up as part of a glam squad. Boy and girl finally reunite at the train station they met at. But you know, still one of those bad good movies you should probably watch.
License to Wed
So this might be the third time John Krasinski’s come up during RomCom Week – so what, who cares? In a stark contrast to Away We Go, Licensed to Wed is a super corny RomCom in the truest sense of the term. Ben (JKras) and Sadie (Mandy Moore) are heading down the aisle. But in order to get married in the church of Sadie’s choice, they must go through an intense and, quite frankly, pretty insane prenuptial course run by Reverend Frank, played by the great Robin Williams. The movie is super predictable, but the best/worst RomComs always are. Mandy perfectly plays the sweet bride, John portrays a charming motherf’er, per usual, and Robin is his usual hyper, hilarious self. If you want to watch a movie that’s not completely horrible, but not Shawshank Redemption level, this one’s for you.
He’s Just Not That Into You
I never read this book, and I know the movie got a bunch of mixed reviews, but I am in the minority of people who didn’t hate this movie? Ok, I straight up liked it a lot. I’m a sucker for those big cast/intertwining story movies (I actually saw New Year’s Eve in the theater), and this one is no different. With Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, and BRADLEY COOPER (I think I’m confusing his character with the one in Valentine’s Day, which I also liked), you assume it’s a movie that’s going to be really good. From the cheating husband to the man who won’t commit to the best friends who won’t just realize they’re perform for each other, the movie covers almost every type of relationship problem there is. Which, I guess, is kind of the point, isn’t it?