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By Britton Perelman · July 29, 2019
Ahh, rom-coms. The meet-cutes. The first looks. The situational irony!
Say what you will, but the romantic comedy is alive and well. And to be honest, it never really went anywhere.
While the most well-known rom-coms established genre tropes, the newer, more modern stories are finding ways to buck the system while still solidifying themselves within the genre. After all, the only hard-and-fast “rules” for rom-coms are that they include romance and comedy, right?
Here are seven rom-coms that defy traditional romantic comedy rules. Spoilers abound.
While most rom-coms include both people that make up the couple, 500 Days of Summer is solidly one person’s story. All poor Tom Hanson wanted was for Summer Finn to love him.
It is Tom’s skewed viewpoint that provides for the plot’s punch — which is, of course, that Tom interpreted his entire relationship with Summer incorrectly. By telling the story through such a narrow lens, including the point of view of one party and not the other, the story sets itself apart as truly unique.
This underrated Richard Curtis flick hides many things under its rom-com designation. It’s a love story, yes. But it’s also a moving family drama, a quirky time travel movie, and an incredible coming-of-age story.
Even thematically, this movie finds ways to easily shrug off the rom-com genre. Instead of having the main moral-of-the-story be about love, About Time focuses on relishing every moment you’re given in life and champions finding extraordinary in the ordinary. Genre be damned!
When you’re in a relationship, you go through things together. But what happens when you don’t? Where does that leave you? That’s exactly what The Big Sick tackles.
Emily ends up in a medically induced coma and Kumail goes on a rom-com journey by himself. He comes out at the end more in love with Emily than ever, but she was in a coma the whole time and didn’t go on that journey with him. The Big Sick grounds itself in the reality of the situation instead of having its characters act like they both experienced the same thing. Never fear, there’s a happy ending after all.
The meet-cute, that moment in romances and rom-coms when boy meets girl, is almost a given. Almost.
In 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, based on the novel of the same name, main characters Rachel and Nick are already a couple when the movie begins. We don’t get to see a first-look, eyes-meet-across-the-room, or adorkable situation involving these two. Instead, their relationship is established and solid, and audiences just jump right into the crazy rich circumstances in Singapore.
Now usually rom-coms have two characters, both seen on-screen, who fall in love with one another (or out of love, in some cases). Love, Simon on the other hand, keeps the identity of the love interest a secret until the second-to-last scene.
The screenwriters found other ways to provide those typical rom-com moments that don’t feel cheap, and actually ended with the meet-cute instead of starting with it. It works because, ultimately, the story was never about love to begin with. It’s about acceptance.
Another rom-com that defies being pigeonholed into one genre, Silver Linings Playbook heads deep into drama territory while also utilizing rom-com conventions. But one thing it doesn’t do is sugarcoat.
Pat and Tiffany have vastly different perspectives on life, their mental illnesses, and the tragic things that have happened to them. But just as its characters do, this movie embraces life’s messiness in a way no other rom-com has done before. It’s refreshing, life affirming, real, and hopeful all at the same time.
This Netflix original written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson throws caution to the rom-com wind in more ways than one. First, it begins with a break-up. After getting a killer job in San Francisco, Jenny’s boyfriend calls it off because he doesn’t want to do long distance. Flashbacks provide context for their relationship, but we start at the end not the beginning.
Not only that, but the rom-com aspect of Someone Great is more about Jenny’s relationship with her friends Erin and Blair than with her ex-beau, Nate. They’re the tried-and-true kind of BFFs you love more than your guy anyway. In the end, thanks to an incredible day with her friends, Jenny chooses herself instead of her man. Now that’s what I call a bittersweet happy ending.
Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. Find more of her work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.