romantic comedy

Y is for The Year of Spectacular Men (2017)

After graduating and kind of breaking up with her boyfriend, Izzy Klein (Madelyn Deutch) decides to move back to LA from New York and move in with her successful younger sister Sabrina (Zoey Deutch). As Izzy tries to figure out what she wants from life she makes the most of her freedom and binge watches The X-Files and meets many guys who could possibly be “the one”.

I feel after I highlighted the potential nepotism in Quincy, I have to give The Year of Spectacular Men equal treatment. It’s directed by Lea Thompson (who also plays Izzy and Sabrina’s mother) and stars her real-life daughters and while they both have acting experience prior to this film, it’s interesting to think if some of the scenes between the daughters and mother would have the same natural and comforting vibe as these three do.

The Year of Spectacular Men is kind of a combination of coming-of-age story, rom-com, and family drama and as it tries to be so many things at once, it doesn’t always nail each one. I think the aspect that works best is the coming-of-age one as Izzy is at a crossroads in her life, trying to figure out what she wants to do after university. She’s had many different ideas or interests that she’s picked up and then dropped and she is sort of in limbo when it comes to romance. She seems to simultaneously get really attached to a guy while also doing what she can to push them away. It’s as if because she’s so unsure of herself, she’s unsure of any relationship in her life.

Perhaps it’s a given as they are real life sisters but the scenes with Izzy and Sabrina are the highlight of tis film. Their relationship is the heart of the film and it’s interesting how though Sabrina is the younger one, she seems to have her life more together as she has a home, a boyfriend, and a blossoming career as an actress/model. It’d be easy to have Izzy be resentful of her little sister but instead she admires her, helps her and always wants to protect her – even from things that she really shouldn’t. it’s still an interesting dynamic as Sabrina is the one encouraging Izzy to find a job, helps her make connections, and just try and get her out of her spare room.

The humour in The Year of Spectacular Men is more of the quirky and sometimes absurd kind rather than huge laughs. Izzy see things in an unusual way at times and how she acts around other people is sometimes awkward as she’s not totally comfortable in herself.

The Year of Spectacular Men is a pretty breezy rom-com/drama. The familial dynamics are the best and it’s always nice seeing films about messy twentysomething women who don’t have everything figured out. 3/5.

E is for Enough Said (2013)

Divorced masseuse Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is slowly coming to terms with her daughter leaving to go to college when she meets Albert (James Gandolfini). As they’re getting to know one another she discovers that he’s her new friend and client Marianne’s (Catherine Keener) ex-husband.

Enough Said is one of those wonderfully simple but effective films that feels very real and rather cosy. With its ninety-minute runtime it develops its main characters (and its side characters) very well and shows their messy sides as well as their good sides. Enough Said could’ve been a bit trite but thanks to the performance from Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini and a script that knows how to balance the absurd with heartfelt moments, it really works.

Eva is a nice woman but she’s in need of connections. While it’s clear she loves her daughter and is sad about her moving away, she’s so caring that she also takes her daughter’s best friend under her wing. This causes tension between the friends, and the mothers and daughters, but Eva is a bit too oblivious to see that to begin with.

While the focus of Enough Said is the blossoming romance between Eva and Albert and how she then learns about all his negative traits from his ex-wife, it’s good that her daughter still plays a big part in her life, as does her friends (played by Toni Collette and Ben Falcone). It makes Eva feel like more of a real person with a real, lived-in life.

It’s also nice to see a story about post-divorce life and dating and all the things that come with that. Co-parenting and having to still talk to your ex even if you don’t like them anymore because of your child, and having to deal with new stepparents too. Plus, these characters have all lived a life and are at an age where romantic partners might not be the idealised versions one might dream of but that’s OK.

There’s a seen in Enough Said that reminded me of the big reveal in Crazy Stupid Love though only in the fact that a bunch of characters were finally together and secrets were revealed. In Enough Said it’s awkward and uncomfortable as they are finally on the same page and some characters are justifiably hurt. It’s not the hysterical farce of Crazy Stupid Love (which I do love and think is one of the funniest scenes on film ever) but this more understated dramatic reveal works brilliantly here.

Enough Said is the best kind of movie for grownups. It’s funny, sweet and realistic and it’s just a lovely film where the relationships are believable and the chemistry is suitably awkward yet nice. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Family Stone (2005)

Strait-laced Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) accompanies her boyfriend Everett (Dermot Mulroney) home for Christmas and to meet his outgoing family for the first time. Soon secrets are revealed and Meredith feels like the whole family hates her.

Everett’s family is big and loud and a bit chaotic. Diane Keaton is great at Sybil, the matriarch of the family, and Rachel McAdams as his snarky and brutally honest sister is often very mean but in a wry way that almost makes it OK.

Meredith and Everett do seem like an OK match to begin with and that’s because Everett doesn’t have that much of a personality. It’s how his family reacts to him when he’s with Meredith that comes across as either they’re seeing he’s pretending to be something he’s not, or that they just don’t know him at all. It’s not exactly clear who he is outside of Meredith.

The Family Stone is a bit of an odd film really. It’s a Christmas film I hadn’t even heard of until recently and while it has the typical big family Christmas and all the hijinks that typically ensue it’s also got a bit of a dark streak to it too.

Yeah, Meredith doesn’t really fit in with this family but she doesn’t come across too terrible and unlikeable until a truly cringeworthy scene at the dinner table. Thad (Tyrone Giordano), one of Everett’s brothers, is gay and Meredith sticks her foot in it by saying she doesn’t know how any parent can hope their child’s gay as it makes life so much harder for the child. She doesn’t know when to stop and as much as she tries to explain herself it makes it worse and sound even more homophobic and everyone around that dinner table is perfectly in their right to get mad at her but the way things play out it’s like it’s supposed to be an easy thing to forgive.

There’s also an almost love square thing going on in The Family Stone which I wasn’t expecting and you’ve got to wonder what’s going through some of these characters heads – Everett’s especially. But it does lead to a couple of grown men chasing each other around the house and acting like kids which is something I always find amusing.

I think it’s fitting that The Family Stone is a messy film as the family at the heart of it is messy too. They’ve each got something going on in their lives including bad medical news and not great love lives. All the actors who make up the Stone family do a great job of feeling like a dysfunctional family who do love each other even though they take the mick out of one another.

The Family Stone is like an alternative Christmas film, one of those ones where family meals sometimes end in a fight and not everything can be wrapped up neatly and be a happily ever after. 3/5.

REVIEW: Single All The Way (2021)

Desperate to avoid his family’s judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter (Michael Urie) convinces his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to join him for the holidays and pretend that they’re now in a relationship. But when Peter’s mum Carole (Kathy Najimy) plans to set him up with her spin instructor James (Luke Macfarlane), the plan goes awry.

Single All The Way is a wonderful Christmas romcom that has all the best tropes; friends to lovers, meddling family, sharing a bed, and more! Obviously, it’s clear that Peter and Nick are meant to be together but their trepidation is understandable (because who wants to ruin a great friendship?!) and the two of them need an extra push from some loving family members.

Like Peter’s family, you’re rooting for the two of them but then there’s blind date James. He’s attractive and nice and just generally a really good, fun guy that seems to genuinely like Peter. He’s not painted as wrong for Peter or a terrible choice in comparison to Nick. In fact James and Peter go on some fun dates and they like each other, making you almost as torn as Peter is as he struggles to figure out what his heart truly wants. It helps that James is played by Luke Macfarlane who is often a leading man in Hallmark movies so it’s hard not to find him charming and likeable.

The whole cast is fab but a special mention has to go to Jennifer Coolidge who plays Peter’s Aunt Sandy. She’s just full of drama as her main focus is the winter show she organises every year and she has some of the best lines. She’s funny and just the epitome of that slightly eccentric relative that is at these family gatherings.

It’s kind of easy to compare Single All The Way to last years gay Christmas film, Happiest Season. But whereas Happiest Season had a closeted lesbian take her girlfriend pretending to be just her roommate home for Christmas and comes with all the fear of homophobia and rejection from the family, Single All The Way is out and proud. Peter’s whole family loves him (and they really like Nick too) and even though Peter and Nick are from LA where it’s clear they have many friends who are gay, coming to a small town in New Hampshire for Christmas neither of them ever express any discomfort or fear of any random person’s reaction. There’s even jokes about how Peter’s mum set him up with James as they’re they only gay guys in town. Homophobia is just not a thing in Single All The Way and that allows it to be a wonderful cliché Christmas romcom like all the heterosexual Christmas romcoms that have come before it.

Single All The Way is just so much fun, is sweet and full of love like a big Christmassy hug. Is it strictly “good” enough for a 5-star rating? Probably not. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself, it made me laugh and it makes all the tropes work in a way that I just couldn’t be mad at them. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Sweetest Thing (2002)

Christina (Cameron Diaz) is more than happy to flirt, have one-night stands, and leave men in the dust. That is until she meets Peter (Thomas Jane) in a club and with the help of her best friends Courtney (Christina Applegate) and Jane (Selma Blair) she decides to follow her heart and to gatecrash his brother’s wedding.

While The Sweetest Thing is built on romance and the driving force behind Christina’s motivations is the fact she wants to see Peter again, it’s really about the friendship between these three women. Christina only meets Peter because she’s trying to help Jane get over her ex and it’s Courtney that drives them for hours in order to get to the wedding on time. All three of them are very funny people and they feel like they are great friends. They have in-jokes and do their best to cheer each other up while also being totally open with one another.

The Sweetest Thing has the crude humour also seen in Bridesmaids so if you like that, there’s a good chance you’ll like this too, and it should probably be talked about as much as Bridesmaids is to be honest. There’s a whole song and dance number about how to make a man feel good about his penis (sounds weird but it does work) and all three friends are very open about talking about their sex lives. There’s another musical moment featuring Aerosmith’s Don’t Want to Miss a Thing which I found hilarious and there’s a montage like any self-respecting romcom should have.

Cameron Diaz is just a delight in this film. She’s funny and sweet and while their first meeting is pretty short, she and Thomas Jane have enough chemistry to make you believe that she’d make the unexpected choice to travel for hundreds of miles just on the chance that there’s something between them. But really all her best moments are with Christina Applegate and Selma Blair, they all have great friendship-chemistry and each feel equal parts weird and real.

The Sweetest Thing is funny and at times outlandish and ridiculous but it never stops being fun. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020)

Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan) can’t help but hoard past mementos from failed relationships, but after her latest breakup with her first proper Grown Up boyfriend Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar) her best friends convince her to start to try and let go of the past. In doing so, Lucy beings to curate an art space dedicated to past relationships with the reluctant help of wannabe hotel owner Nick (Dacre Montgomery).

The Broken Hearts Gallery doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of romcoms but what it does do his hit all the needed romcom beats very well and has a load of charm and a fantastic leading lady in Geraldine Viswanathan. Viswanathan is very funny, and she is the glue that holds this film together. She does a great job of showing the different sides to Lucy and make her sympathetic and believable. Plus, Viswanathan and Montgomery have great chemistry as their verbal sparring goes from friendly to flirty as they get closer.

The Broken Hearts Gallery works because it’s never cynical about romance or the type of genre film it is a part of. Yes, Lucy is a hopeless romantic and Nick is more closed off, but there’s something both satisfying and melancholy about the message of letting go to past relationships. That ability to be able to remember but also move on is important in the breakdown of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. Lucy curates this space in order for her to try and let go and it ends up snowballing into something so much bigger than she could imagine – because she’s not the only one who struggles with the what ifs and maybes.

Besides the romance aspect of The Broken Hearts Gallery, one of the key aspects of both Lucy and Nick’s lives are their friendships. Lucy lives with Amanda (Molly Gordon) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo), one whose been in a relationship for six years and the other that leaves behind a string of broken-hearted models. How they each think of love and commitment is different but then their friendship is so strong. They aren’t afraid to call each other out on their issues but they’re also very protective of one another and their dialogue, while full of quips and not particularly realistic, is often very funny. While it doesn’t get as much screen time as the girls’ relationship, Nick has Marcos (Arturo Castro), a friend/employee and his wife Randy (Megan Ferguson) and their relationship is often both funny and awkward.

The Broken Hearts Gallery is sweet, funny and heart-warming. It’s a film that’s made to put a big smile on your face and has relationships that are full of chemistry – platonic and romantic. It’s just a delightful film that makes you feel better if you’re feeling down. 4/5.

I is for Imagine Me & You (2005)

When Rachel (Piper Perabo) catches florist Luce’s (Lena Headey) eye at her wedding to Heck (Matthew Goode) she instantly feels things she’s never felt before, questioning her sexuality and prompting a stir among Rachel’s family and friends.

Imagine Me & You is a very funny and entertaining rom com. It follows a lot of the usual tropes of the genre, but the fact it’s about two women falling in love make it feel fresher and more exciting.

Nobody is really made the villain in Imagine Me & You because love is complicated. Rachel loves Heck, and though what she’s suddenly feeling for Luce is unlike anything she’s felt before, it doesn’t make the love she felt for Heck meaningless. Imagine Me & You really handles the discussions of love, whether it’s something that builds or it can be instantaneous, very well and doesn’t make one relationship lesser to build up another.

The chemistry between Perabo and Headey is palpable and Perabo is especially brilliant showing Rachel’s confusion and heartache as she tries to figure out what she’s feeling for Luce while feeling guilty for feeling anything at all.

The extended cast are wonderful too. Celia Imrie and Anthony Head who Rachel’s parents and Sue Johnston who plays Luce’s mum, really highlighting the wonderful British cast this film has. They all have very funny lines and their relationships with their on-screen daughters is brilliant and feels real.

Imagine Me & You is a funny and sweet romantic comedy and it has one of the best declarations of love I’ve seen in a romcom – or any genre of film to be honest. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

When medieval English knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) is magically transported to present day Ohio, he meets high school science teacher Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) and together they must figure out how he can complete his quest in order to return home.

The Knight Before Christmas is one of those Christmas films that is most definitely not good, but at times it can be weirdly watchable and that’s mostly down to the charm of Vanessa Hudgens.

The Knight Before Christmas is a classic fish out of water tale. Being a medieval knight Cole knows nothing about anything from technology to food and everything in between. This leads to what are supposed to be funny moments – sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. After Brooke hits Cole with her car she takes him in as she feels bad and it’s obvious that he’s lost his memory what with him having old fashioned speech patterns and believing he’s a fourteenth century knight and all.

You do have to give Netflix kudos for having a character in The Knight Before Christmas sitting down and watching another one of the Christmas films. I guess it makes sense in terms of costs and the legalities but it’s still kind of funny. I’m pretty sure they namedropped a fictional country that features in another of their Christmas films too. Does this mean that there’s a Netflix Christmas Film Cinematic Universe?

The close relationship between Brooke and her sister Madison (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is nice and they feel like believable siblings without Madison being solely relegated to the supportive family member. Hudgens and Whitehouse don’t have a lot of chemistry but they’re not terrible together. As Cole and Brooke slowly begin to understand and care for one another you can’t help but wish they’d realise how they feel a lot sooner – but then where would be the drama and “suspense”?!

The Knight Before Christmas is cheesy predictable Christmas nonsense. It’s harmless but forgettable but Vanessa Hudgens’s charm and big doe eyes save it from being awful. 2/5.

REVIEW: Let It Snow (2019)

When a snowstorm hits a small town on Christmas Eve, a group of high school seniors finds their friendships and love lives unexpectedly colliding.

Let It Snow is Netflix’s latest foray into YA book adaptations. The book with the same name was written by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle and was three interconnected stories about teenagers finding romance in the snow. I can’t comment on how it was as an adaptation as I haven’t read the source material, but as a film it was really good.

The young cast are so great in their roles that it’s very easy to be charmed by them and quickly get invested in their relationships. There’s Julie (Isabela Moner) who accidentally runs into pop star Stuart (Shameik Moore), there’s Tobin (Mitchell Hope) who finally plucks up the courage to tell his best friend Angie (Kiernan Shipka) how he feels about her when JP (Matthew Noszka) comes into their lives, and Dorrie (Liv Hewson) is not only head over heels for a cheerleader but she’s also getting frustrated with her best friend Addie (Odeya Rush) who doesn’t see how great she is. There are even more characters than that and different relationships and friendships but those are the main ones that run through the film.

The relationship between Julie and Stuart could’ve felt very instalove but thanks to Moner and Moore’s great chemistry it doesn’t, and you find yourself rooting for these two very different people meet and form an unlikely connection.

While Let It Snow does follow a lot of the usual romance or teen movie tropes, it does have a different take on a couple. JP, for instance, is supposed to be the guy you hate as he’s getting in the way of a potential romance between Tobin and Angie, but because he’s such a nice guy (but not a Nice Guy™) you don’t, and neither does Tobin. It’s also lovely to see the friendship between two teenage girls getting such prominence and the two of them trying to help one another even when the truth hurts.

The film does a good job at juggling all the storylines and interweaving them and the characters in a way that feels natural. One storyline never feels like it’s getting more attention than another and having the film take place over one day is great as it’s like peaking through a window into these characters lives.

Let It Snow is just so sweet and fluffy! It’s the right balance of funny and sad, and with its snowy setting, which does look like a picture-postcard, Let It Snow feels like a warm Christmassy hug – which is exactly what you want from a Christmas movie. 4/5.

REVIEW: Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Best friends in their childhood, Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) ended up drifting a part, even though everyone always thought they’d end up together. When they reconnect sixteen years later, maybe this is their second chance?

Always Be My Maybe is a romantic comedy that captures the best friends to lovers trope perfectly. The road going from best friends to lovers is never smooth thanks to the fear of ruining a friendship, the fear of opening up your heart, and just the general awkwardness of becoming more than friends with your best mate. Having the two leads have great chemistry and give great performances makes you feel for both of them in this scenario.

Sasha has become a celebrity chef, travelling across the country to open restaurants in different cities. It’s as she returns to her hometown of San Francisco to open her latest restaurant that she runs into Marcus. Marcus is almost the complete opposite of Sasha. He’s stayed in San Francisco, he works for his dad’s business and he still performs in the same band but never tries to take the band to the next level. It’s equal parts awkward and endearing, seeing the two of the reconnect and try to find some middle ground after so long a part and lives that have gone in different directions.

The supporting cast are great too. Michelle Buteau plays Veronica, Sasha’s friend and PA, and she probably has all the best lines, while there is Keanu Reeves playing an over the top version of Keanu Reeves – or at least what we think Keanu Reeves would be like – who steals every scene he’s in.

As a romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe is sometimes uniquely Asian-American. For instance, Sasha cooks Asian cuisine, and there’s lots of discussions of different dishes and her and Marcus’s parents encompass Asian stereotypes without them becoming one-dimensional characters. But Always Be My Maybe proves that love, fear, and aspirations are all universal while still being very funny.

Always Be My Maybe doesn’t reinvent the rom-com wheel but it’s sweet, funny and with its charming leads it’s near perfect. 4/5.