Ain’t Love Funny?
This month I’m looking at a few alternative Romantic Comedies, well ones that come at it from a different angle anyway.
The Apartment – dir. Billy Wilder – ★★★★★
Billy Wilder really was one of the greatest things to ever hit mainstream moviemaking and his classic comedy/drama (and personal favourite) “The Apartment” is thankfully now available on Netflix.
Jack Lemmon play C.C. Baxter, an office working Joe Schmo desperate to work his way up the corporate ladder, because of this and his mild mannered nature he’s bullied into letting his apartment out to his superiors so they can entertain their bits on the side. This all gets terribly complicated very quickly though because not only are the neighbours annoyed about the high spirits they hear through the walls every night but also when a romance of his own begins to blossom as he takes a shine to Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) an elevator girl from his office.
The film is so beautifully done, the comedy is natural and unforced, there’s a sense of melancholy in every scene particularly due to it being set around the holidays and the empathy that Lemmon and MacLaine manage to create for their characters is really masterful and helps elevate the whole film.
Obvious Child – dir. Gillian Robespierre – ★★★★★
Jenny Slate stars as a woman whose whole life is channelled into her stand-up, much to the annoyance of her boyfriend. He promptly dumps her and she finds out soon after that she’s losing her day job and only income. As she fumbles around trying to figure out what to do next, she ends up having a one night stand which leads to complications.
There’s some heavy themes going on in the film but all of it is delivered with skill and most importantly great jokes and dialogue. The characters are well rounded and believable and it’s never cloying and also doesn’t dodge some of the questions it raises and at 80 odd minutes long it’s the perfect duration for a comedy.
They Came Together – dir. David Wain – ★★★½
David Wain (Role Models, Wet Hot American Summer) recruits Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd to skewer the rom-com genre. What’s great about this film is it hits nearly every beat of saccharine Hollywood romantic comedies, but that’s also what’s can be frustrating about it.
Lionsgate’s sypnosis describes it better than I could “When Joel and Molly meet, it’s hate at first sight: his big Corporate Candy Company threatens to shut down her quirky indie shop. Plus, Joel is hung up on his sexy ex. But amazingly, they fall in love, until they break up about two thirds of the way through.“ Plus New York is like another character……
A New Leaf – dir. Elaine May – ★★★
This oddity stars Walter Matthau as a spoilt heir playboy, Henry Graham, who is told that all of his money has been completely squandered and he’s flat broke. After a period of denial he turns to his uncle for money who refuses to help him out and then begins to panic and decides that marrying into money is his only option. He bumps into a shy, accident prone heiress Henrietta Lowell (writer /director Elaine May) and he thinks that she’ll be perfect, but will he be able to put up with her long enough to get married and get her money? Matthau turns up his usual hangdog charm a notch and plays Henry with relish and a hint of mania.
The film, which may be a bit too odd and quirky for some, was Elaine May’s directorial debut. May was famous for her stage work with director Mike Nichols (The Graduate) as part of a duo, Nichols and May, and made the original “The Heartbreak Kid” but she also made “Ishtar” so you win some, you lose some. She also wrote on films such as “Primary Colors”, “The Birdcage”, “Tootise” and “Labyrinth”
Also don’t forget Harold and Maude is the ultimate alternative Romantic Comedy but I’ve already recommended it here before, so if you haven’t seen it, do.