June 22, 2003

Romantic Comedies -- Highs & Lows

A question for the (movie) ages -- how can a genre that can be so charming and effervescient at times also be so very bad? Romantic comedies can make you (and when we say you, we mean Cinecultist) thrill to the possibilities of cinema. Or they can make you weep from the sheer number of cliches lobbed in your general direction.

This weekend, Cinecultist watched two rom coms. One which can be considered one of our new all time favorites, Ninotchka. The other which may now tie Three to Tango as the worst romantic comedy of all time, Alex & Emma. Feast or famine, as my mother likes to say.

ninotchka.gif Greta Garbo, as Soviet diplomat Ninotchka, does her best to escape the siren call of Paris and Melvyn Douglas but she fails miserably. Whether it's the silly hat or his dashing moustache that draws her in, we don't know but Cinecultist couldn't keep her eyes of the great Garbo. She is the most charming one. Granted, Film Forum has its share of noisy, obnoxious patrons (as CC with the opinionated and also charming G discovered) but that's understandable considering the devotion Ernst "the Lube" Lubitsch's movies inspires. With its oh so sophisticated comedic dialogue, Billy Wilder's assured writing hand is all over the script as one liners zing and zang past. Also, Lubitsch sets up these delightful aural jokes where the visualization is left up to the audience but the comedy is clear. Walking out of the theater, CC couldn't help but grin from the pure pleasure of the movie. This is the kind of memorable viewing experience the true cinephile treasures.

Alex and Emma on the other hand, and in particular Ms. Kate Hudson, felt flat like soda left too long open in the fridge. kate.jpg Even the convention of switching between the period story being told and the current time, which can be fun what with the cute costumes and wigs, just seemed desperate. Luke Wilson's character, the novelist who owes the Cuban mob, was completely unlikable. He spews tired literary convention more akin to Jackie Collins than Dostoevsky and all the while Kate sits rapt. Can this steonographer, even with the mousy brown hair and personality probably acquired by correspondence, really be so hard up that the self-absorbed writer looks good to her? Perhaps it's not a good sign when you hope that the lovers don't end up together in the end because to watch the final triumphant kiss would be too cheesy for words. And let CC tell you, the spinning gazebo cross-cutting costumes shot is not worth 10 bucks. Consider CC the martyr who took this one for the team and save yourself.

Here's the final score: Lubitsch/Wilder = 1, Reiner = 0 (or less than).

Posted by karen at June 22, 2003 10:02 PM