Then, little by little, filmmakers began to chip away at the formula, making rom coms with a twist. There was a “Warm Bodies,” a zombie rom com and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s one-two punch “500 Days of Summer” and “Don Jon,” among others. Now there’s “The F Word,” a fresh and funny take on romance and the nature of love.
Called “What If” in the United States where the “F Word” title was seen as too salacious, (in the movie the “F” stands for friend), it’s the story of Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), a loser in love who meets Chandry (Zoe Kazan), the girl of his dreams, at a party. She’s charming, pretty, funny and has a live-in boyfriend. Like Harry and Sally before them, they must discover if men and women can just be friends.
Enchanting, whimsical and sweet are words I could use to describe “The F Word,” and the film earns each and every one, but it is also more than that.
Director Michael Dowse doesn’t allow the tone to get sugary and slip into saccharine mode. He’s aided by a smart and funny script by Elan Mastai, but it’s Radcliffe and Kazan that draw us in. The pair has chemistry to burn and their conversations have a ring of truth that doesn’t feel contrived or rom commy.
They’re supported by an able cast, including Megan Park in a star-making turn as Chantry’s promiscuous sister and “Girl’s” alum Adam Driver as Wallace’s best friend Allan.
By Richard Crouse & Mark Breslin – Metro Reel Guys
SYNOPSIS: Called What If in the United States where the F Word title was seen as too salacious, (in the movie the “F” stands for friend), this is the story of Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), a loser in love who meets Chandry (Zoe Kazan), the girl of his dreams, at a party. She’s charming, pretty, funny and has a live-in boyfriend. Like Harry and Sally before them, they must discover if men and women can just be friends.
Richard: 4 Stars
Mark: 4 Stars
Richard: Mark, enchanting, whimsical and sweet are words I could use to describe The F Word, and the film earns each and every one, but it is also more than that. Director Michael Dowse doesn’t allow the tone to get sugary and slip into saccharine mode. He’s aided by a smart and funny script by Elan Mastai, but it’s Radcliffe and Kazan that drew me in. The pair has chemistry to burn and their conversations have a ring of truth that don’t feel contrived or rom commy.
Mark: Richard. This is an incredibly sweet-hearted movie that will do nothing to alleviate the problems in the Middle East. Nevertheless the movie is about 25% more realistic than most rom-coms and I was so grateful for that. But I’ve never seen a movie where the characters were so polite to one another; no wonder they set it in Toronto.
MB: I was also grateful for the indie score and the way the characters looked a little mussed, with some visible pores and an occasional zit, even if they all sported impossibly cute and expensive eyewear. Toronto does look sexy—although not dangerously sexy—but for a city that trumpets its multiculturalism, the cast and tone were lily-white. The lead was actually British! Speaking of the lead, I liked Radcliffe in the role. You, Richard
RC: I did. I thought he and Kazan made a cute couple. There’s more to Radcliffe than wizardry and battling “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Breaking free of Harry Potter must have seemed daunting for the young actor, but he proven in movies like this and Kill Your Darlings and The Woman in Black that he is versatile and won’t be typecast. I’m curious to see what he does next.
MB: I heard he was doing Vladimir in Waiting for Godot on Broadway, dressed as Osama Bin Laden. Personally, I think he’s too short for the role.
I couple of years ago I had the soul crushing bit of bad luck to have to sit through movies with names like “Just Go With It,” “Friends with Benefits,” “No Strings Attached” and “New Year’s Eve.”
Romantic comedies. Rom coms. Whatever you want to call them, it was a punishing year spent watching good looking do the same thing over and over again—meet cute, fall in love, then fall out of love before walking off into the sunset, happily ever after.
Kathryn Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake, Kate Hudson and Chris Evans not only tested my love of movies, but my love of love in that grim year.
At the time I declared the rom com dead.
I suggested it could be resurrected if someone like Quentin Tarantino came along and completely reinvented the genre, but the chances of that happening were about as great as Kristen Bell finding herself alone as the end credits roll.
Then along came Joseph Gordon-Levitt and “Don Jon.” Tarantino must be too busy reinventing the grindhouse genre to bother with rom coms, but the former “Third Rock from the Sun” star isn’t.
Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote and directed, stars as Jon Martello, nicknamed Don Jon because he is the godfather of meeting women in bars. He and his pals (Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke) troll nightclubs in search of “dimes”—perfect tens—but in secret Jon prefers the company of his computer. Addicted to porn sites, he spends an inordinate amount of time surfing the net, looking for the perfect video to “lose himself in.”
He can’t even give the habit up after he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a beautiful, gum snapping Jersey girl who thinks people who watch porn are sick. She encourages him to go back to school, to better himself, which he does, all the while watching porn.
The porn addiction (SPOILER ALERT) eventually drives a wedge between them, but he soon learns about true intimacy when he meets an older woman (Julianne Moore) at night school.
“Don Jon” is a rom com is disguised as a character study. Jon’s romantic dalliances are a context for his intimacy issues, but the romance comes in unexpected places, subverting the formula that makes movies like “Sweet Home Alabama” so predictable.
The comedy comes from the characters. Imagine all the guys from “Jersey Shore” rolled into one porn-obsessed lothario and you have Gordon-Levitt’s foul mouthed but spot on portrayal of Jon.
Johansson, who swallows her words in what may go down as one of the greatest Jersey accents ever to be captured on celluloid, is the movie’s McGuffin. She appears to be the girl of his dreams, but she is simply the physical embodiment of his bombshell porn dreams come to life. It’s because he doesn’t love her that he learns what love actually is.
Cudos also go to Tony Danza as Jon’s father. He’s a carbon copy of the hot headed horn dog, and living proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“Don Jon” is a stylish, crude look at romance with loads of laughs. It shows off Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s promise as a filmmaker, but more importantly it reinvents the rom com in a fun—although vulgar—way.
More than any other film genre romantic comedy suffers from a bad case of predictability. How many times have we seen two unlikely people beat the odds to become a happy couple by the time the credits roll? Dorky Harry meets beautiful Sally. Pretty Woman of the Night seduced by suave rich guy.
It’s déjà vu all over again.
The trick to making a good rom-com is to make the journey — how the characters wind up locking lips at the film’s end — interesting.
New In Town, the latest from Renée Zellweger does this by moving the action out of New York, where all great romantic comedies are set, to Minnesota.
This location twist is often used in the most common type of romantic comedy, the trademarked Drew Barrymore rom-com. On film Drew has fallen in love in Hawaii (50 First Dates), Boston (Fever Pitch) and everywhere in between.
The breakdown for a Barrymore romance is simple. Act One sees the quirky couple meet. Sparks fly. Act Two has the pair falling in love under unlikely circumstances. Things go great until a confrontation leads to separation. Act Three contains the Grand Gesture. He or she, depending on the movie, moves heaven and earth to win the other back. Insert happy ending.
Barrymore, of course, isn’t to blame for the state of rom-coms. Neither is Kate or Reese. They’re just mimicking an age old formula.
Trouble in Paradise, an Ernst Lubitsch classic from 1932, follows the structure and it could be argued that Shakespeare was the architect of the rom-com.
So why, after half a millennium, do romantic comedies still thrill audiences? I think it’s primal. Deep down we all love a happy ending and while real life relationships might not always work, it’s assured that when Harry meets Sally, it will be forever. That kind of certainty, no matter how unreal, keeps us coming back for more.
During the screening of “The Bounty Hunter,” a new romantic comedy from Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, I had a feeling I have never experienced before. I found myself wishing be-mulleted reality star Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman would make a cameo appearance and bring some much needed entertainment value to this movie. Not that I’m much of a fan of the A&E bounty hunter show, but his puka shell necklaces and flamboyant hairstyle might have spiced this lame action comedy up.
The premise is simple. Butler is the titular character, a former cop so down on his luck he takes a gig tracking down his ex-wife (and alleged real-life girlfriend) Aniston, for a payday of five thousand dollars. She’s an ambitious newspaper reporter who will let nothing get in the way of getting a story—including a court date. When she skips court to follow a lead a warrant is issued for her arrest. Enter Butler. He finds her easily, but a funny thing happens on the way back to jail—the pair begins to appreciate one another again. Imagine a humdrum sitcom version of “Duplicity” or “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and you get the idea.
“The Bounty Hunter” doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Is it a romantic comedy? Sort of. Is it an action picture? Kinda. Is it a road movie? Hmmmm, maybe. In fact it’s all those things and less. This truly is a case of the whole being lesser than the sum of its parts.
Aniston and Butler play classic screwball comedy characters, gamely indulging in fast paced repartee and some light farce, but it all feels very “been there, done that.” How many more times can the line “You’re crazy!” be answered with “Maybe I am?” before it takes top dishonors as the Movie Cliché of the Year? The script is on autopilot and even the usually charming Aniston and Butler can’t make these characters interesting. It’s scene after scene of endless (and often unfunny) bickering, very tepid action and screwball situations that seem like we’ve seen them before.
There is the odd bright spot. Christine Baranski sparkles as Aniston’s mom, a be-dazzled Atlantic City lounge singer and raises the movie’s temperature from frigid to temperate when she’s on screen and a dinner scene at a honeymoon hotel has some heat to it, but it comes too late in the movie to make much difference.
“The Bounty Hunter” is an almost instantly forgettable film, one that relies on the appeal of Aniston’s short skirts and Butler’s abs more than a decent script or interesting story.