Being the founder of The Hallmarkies Podcast many of you probably assume I am going to love a movie called The Broken Hearts Gallery just by the name alone. Well, you would be wrong. Just read my review for Desperados and you will quickly see I do not give all romcoms a pass. In fact, what I enjoyed the most about The Broken Hearts Gallery wasn’t the romance at all; although it was very sweet and enjoyable. My favorite part of the film is the friendships it depicts. It showcases the best kind of sisterhood that especially thrives in your post-college years and in the age of quarantine I miss a lot (I haven’t even been able to attend book club in person for months. Sad face).
The Broken Hearts Gallery stars Geraldine Viswanathan (who I loved already this year in Bad Education,so she’s rapidly becoming a favorite) as woman named Lucy (that’s such a romcom name). In our opening scenes she is dumped by her boyfriend in a very public fashion and she does not handle things well. Luckily she has her very forgiving and eclectic roommates to help her grieve. Molly Gordon plays roommate Amanda who is married to the mute Jeff and Phillipa Soo (of Hamilton fame) is lesbian part-time model Nadine. They are both hilarious, and I loved them so much.
Through an adorable meet-cute Lucy meets hunky Nick played by Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things), and they start renovating a boutique hotel together. Bernadette Peters also figures in to the story as a gallery owner and Lucy’s former boss. As the title suggests, Lucy creates a gallery of items she and others have saved from their failed relationships. It becomes an instagram phenomenon, and you can guess where the story goes from there.
The point of a movie like The Broken Hearts Gallery is not to tell the most original story. You know where it is going each step of the way. The point is to spend time with likable people, have some laughs and feel good about the world for 5 seconds. This movie does a great job with all of that, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think men and women will equally enjoy it as the male characters have personality and aren’t just tools in the plot for the women (except maybe Jeff but that’s hilarious). My friend went with her husband, and he enjoyed it because he was laughing at the witty dialogue. It’s very engaging and funny.
The one warning I will give about the film is it is a strong PG-13. In fact, I am a little surprised it could get away with that rating. I would check a content review site before seeing it to make sure it is something you are comfortable with.
If you do feel comfortable than make your way to your local theater or drive-in and watch The Broken Hearts Gallery. It’s a really fun time!
I had always heard of Born Yesterday not because of it being a great movie but because of its impact on the Oscars. One of my favorite movies of all time is All About Eve and the actresses Bette Davis and Anne Baxter were both nominated for Oscars for Best Actress. Both of their performances are some of the best in the history of movies, so imagine my shock that neither of them won the big prize! No, Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday won!
It is for this reason I have long wanted to check out Born Yesterday and see if Holliday deserved the win or if it was a case of 2 actresses from the same movie cancelling themselves out. Now for Blind Spot I finally got to check this romcom off my list!
In Born Yesterday Holliday plays a woman named Billie who is a ditzy mistress for a mob-like millionaire named Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford). At first I was struggling with her character. Her squeaky voice was irritating and the way she is walked all over is uncomfortable to a modern viewer. However, as she began to learn more from William Holden’s Paul Verrall I started to warm up to her.
Holden and Holliday have such an authentic chemistry that I found myself rooting for them as a pair more than either character by themselves. They both teach each other and become better people based on the discussions they have. It’s not just the suave man teaching the silly woman how to be more genteel but a woman coming to understand her fundamental value as a human and a man realizing some principles and people are worth fighting for.
It’s easy to be cynical these days, and I know that’s why many don’t enjoy romantic comedies. However, Born Yesterday is kind of a cynical movie. The world surrounding our 2 leads is decidedly broken and there’s no sign of any of it changing outside of the cocoon of their discussions. I got the feeling if Frank Capra had made this film there would be grand speeches and big moments of gravitas but that is not the case here. It’s just about 2 people who make it out of the cynicism kicking and screaming.
I watched the 1993 remake of Born Yesterday and boy was that a dud. It has most of the same ingredients but without the sense of personal connection and growth we see with Holliday and Holden. There’s nobody to root for and no depth to any of the performances so it all feels quite lazy and mean-spirited. Definitely skip it!!
Now do I think Judy Holliday is better in Born Yesterday than Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve? No I do not but it’s a good performance so I’m not angry about it. She brings a humanity to a character that is easy to dismiss and has fantastic chemistry with her costar so she’s a worthy winner even if she’d still get 3rd place in my book. Also if you have never seen Judy in Bells Are Ringing it’s a very underrated musical that I highly recommend.
Believe it or not there are other movies out in theaters besides Avengers: Endgame. I have already reviewed Missing Link and Breakthroughon this blog but I thought I would give you my quick reviews of 5 other films that might be worth your time to check out:
First up the anime film Penguin Highway. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida this creative and original science fiction mystery will delight audiences of all ages and shouldn’t be missed. It reminded me a lot of the Netflix show Stranger Things with a young boy investigating the strange appearance of penguins in his town.
The relationship between the boy and a woman who comes along with the penguins is a little strange but if you like unpredictable, fresh storytelling you’ll love this film
8 out of 10
I will eventually do a full review of Disneynature’s latest film Penguins for my Disneynature series on this blog but until then you should definitely check it out. The penguins are so cute especially our lead penguin Steve who is perpetually behind all the other penguins. It’s so cute!
Ed Helms does a good job as the narrator and kids will love seeing this little penguin romance. Some of the music cues were a little much for me but that’s a minor flaw in a very adorable nature film.
7 out of 10
The Perfect Date
Netflix continues in its attempt to take over the romantic comedy world particularly for teenagers with The Perfect Date. Noah Centineo is super charming, and I’d be in love with him if I was 16. That’s really who this movie is made for, teenagers who want to swoon over Noah Centineo. There’s nothing wrong with that but the script needed work.
He’s charming but the story is so strained and there is no chemistry between him and either of the leading ladies. It also feels like a cheap copy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off without any of that movies emotional heft. If you’re not a 16 year old I’d say pass.
4 out of 10
Penguin Highway isn’t the only new anime we’ve gotten this month. We’ve also gotten the sweet ghost story Okko’s Inn. Based on a series of mangas, Okko’s Inn tells the story of a little girl who goes to live with her Grandma at an Inn after her parents die. She soon learns the Inn is inhabited by a series of mischievous ghosts who want to get her into trouble.
Okko’s Inn feels very episodic and is definitely made for very small children. Adults may find it a little cloying but its heart was in the right place so I enjoyed it. If you want to talk to your kids about grief and how to set goals (Okko decides to become a junior Innkeeper) than this would be a fun one to show them.
6 out of 10
About 30 minutes into the new romantic comedy Long Shot I was groaning pretty loudly inside. The characters were annoying me and it seemed like the most tired of tropes to have the gorgeous blonde bombshell fall for the schlep who can’t seem to understand you don’t wear a hideous windbreaker to a swanky party. Ugh.
BUT…then something happened and it started to win me over. I think the key point is when they actually start a relationship is where it begins to work. The build up I was irritated but the actual balance of a liberal writer dating the secretary of state started to entertain me. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron have decent enough chemistry but it’s the script that makes it all work. The commentary on feminism, work, politics and dating feels believable and is very funny. I particularly thought the ending in all its romcom glory is earned.
O’Shea Jackson as Rogen’s best friend stole the show. Hilarious.
This is an R rated film with lots of language and some sexuality so be forewarned.
I must admit I was a little unsure what I was getting myself into when I put Desk Set on my 2018 Blind Spot list. I needed a Christmas movie I had yet to see (a tough task when you are dealing with me, the Queen of Christmas movies), but I didn’t enjoy the much heralded Hepburn/Tracy film Adam’s Rib. Despite their chemistry, it just didn’t work for me (been a while since I’ve seen it but that was my experience at the time). Fortunately my experience with Desk Set, was much better, and I thoroughly enjoyed this bubbly Christmas romcom.
Desk Set was the 8th of 9 pairings between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and it was directed by the great Walter Lang and written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron (parents of my literary hero Nora Ephron!). They built the lead roles with Hepburn and Tracy in mind and you can tell- especially for Hepburn the lines feel like they are almost improv it is so natural.
Heburn plays a woman named Bunny Watson who works as a researcher that answers questions for reporters. She is a very modern woman who has been dating her boyfriend Mike for 7 years and leads an office of 3 other women (Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill and Sue Randell). These women are strong, yet feminine and can definitely hold their liquor. If you made a version of Desk Set today you wouldn’t have to change much of the behavior of the women, which considering this was made in 1957, that is saying something.
Unfortunately, the perfect office is disturbed when Spencer Tracy’s Richard Sumner comes in and announces they are replacing the researchers with 2 EMERAC computers. Richard then works with the women to make the transition to the computers as seamless as possible. Of course, it is fascinating to see the effects of automation and computers on a 1957 workplace when the same issues and workplace dynamics exist today. We just call it google instead of the EMERAC!
Desk Set is not a movie that is going to have you in stitches laughing. It’s more a pleasant workplace comedy starring two Hollywood greats with terrific chemistry. Hepburn’s Bunny can be quite sarcastic and snarky with Tracy’s Richard, especially when she is drunk. She even laughs so hard in one scene she snorts, which I’m sure was unplanned!
It did take me a bit to get into Desk Set (the first act is pretty slow) but once the computer arrives and they have their Christmas party it gets cracking! If you like romantic or workplace comedies you will enjoy it. It doesn’t have the emotional heft of something like The Apartment but it’s a delightful little comedy with a hint of Christmas in it for the holidays.
If you’ve seen Desk Set what did you think? Do you like it better than Adam’s Rib or is there another Hepburn/Tracy pairing you prefer over both of them?
Thanks for joining me in this 3rd year of Blind Spots! I am excited to start a new series for 2019 and if you have any suggestions please let me know! Merry Christmas!
3 years ago I did a youtube video entitled ‘Is the Romantic Comedy Dead?’ and it is still one of the best videos I’ve ever made. It’s basically a video essay where I talk about why the romantic comedy matters and how so many of them get the genre wrong. Well, after 3 years of little else but Hallmark in the genre (which is amazing and I podcast about each week) we finally get a successful romantic comedy in Crazy Rich Asians, and I am thrilled about it! Naturally most people are cheering on the underrepresented Asian community that is featured in the film (and rightfully so!), but I want to take a second and cheer it on for being a great romantic comedy!
Crazy Rich Asians is based on the very funny novel by Kevin Kwan about a girl named Rachel who goes to meet her boyfriend’s family in Singapore. When she arrives she discovers they are super rich and judgmental. This premise doesn’t reinvent the wheel but as I’ve said many times movies don’t need to be original to work. They just need to be executed well and this is. It is funny, romantic and has a nice heart to it. Also the Mother who is the ‘villain’ of the film has motivations that make sense when looked at from her life experience.
A lot of people will tell you romantic comedies like Crazy Rich Asians are too ‘cheesy’ or ‘unrealistic’ and therefore they shouldn’t be taken seriously. I would counter that nearly all film outside of documentaries (and even them sometimes) exist in a heightened reality. Very few films are truly realistic and when they are, with films like Boyhood, they are often decried for their lack of story.
I would contend that romantic comedies in their own unique way can actually be very realistic. Think about the couples in your life? Think about when you’ve heard their love stories? Is it not usually some variation on a meet-cute and then they fall in love and get married? Most human beings fall in love and have their own version of a cheesy love story. At least that is the hope…
And there’s the magic word- hope. Hope is something special romantic comedies (and dramas) can give us. If they are done well, they can give us hope that love is out there. That maybe someday we can find someone who will love us for who we are and despite whatever shenanigans happen he or she will make it work with us. There is a hope that love is real and that good things can happen to good people.
Then why you ask are so many romantic comedies lame? Well, I do think that male critics are often more likely to criticize films with a feminine energy as lacking in value. But the greater problem is when the films themselves loose that sense of positivity and hope. In an attempt to play into opposites attract the bad romantic comedies will often make the characters too mean spirited so we don’t really want them to fall in love or have a happy ending.
The other mistake they make is relying too much on a gimmick and forgetting about writing interesting characters. Going all the way back to The Taming of the Shrew, many romantic comedies have been built around a gimmick such as a bet, contest, or article that must be done etc. This type of premise is very difficult to pull off and requires great writing and engaging characters.
Crazy Rich Asians at its core is a simple movie of a boy introducing his girl to his judgmental family. The reason it works is because it is well written and the characters are likable. It’s not too different from other great romantic comedies like Notting Hill or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
I hope that Hollywood takes the right lessons from Crazy Rich Asians and in its eventual copycats remembers to give us romantic comedies that are as well done. I’m sure there will be clunkers, but I’m just excited to have a jolt in the romantic comedy genre because I’ve missed it!!
Welcome back romcoms!!! Let’s have some hopeful, romantic, enjoyable movies! Yay!!
(And we won’t have to wait long! I’m so excited for Destination Wedding which comes out in just a few days!)
Also I did this post on my other blog on recent romcoms you might have missed that are worth checking out
Anyone who follows this blog knows one of my all time favorite movies is the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail. I love pretty much everything about it especially Nora Ephron’s witty dialogue. It is perhaps my favorite remake ever and one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Recently my friend Christine sat down with me to talk about the film and why we love it and what it has to say about work, life, love and the human experience. It’s a really fun podcast that I think you will all enjoy. Give it a listen 🙂 You can also listen on itunes here.
February is the month of romance, so I thought it would be fun to pick a classic romantic comedy for my blind spot selection. There aren’t many romcoms I haven’t seen but one I hadn’t gotten around to is The Palm Beach Story by director Preston Sturges- the king of the 1940s romantic comedy! Fortunately, it proved to be not only romantic but also somewhat shocking (for the day) in its themes and story.
The first thing to keep in mind with The Palm Beach Story is to watch the opening credits! There is a montage throughout them that comes into play later in the movie. It’s a neat touch that starts things off feeling fresh and inventive.
Claudette Colbert is amazing as Gerry, a woman struggling with a marriage that can’t seem to get above water financially. Her husband Tom (Joel McCrea) has grand ideas but can never make a steady paycheck. Through various contrivances Gerry ends up on a train down to Palm Beach where she hopes to meet a rich man who can be her second husband.
To her great fortune she meets a man named John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) who becomes smitten and insists on showering her with all kinds of clothing and gifts. Of course when Tom hears about this he is furious and goes to Palm Beach to try and stop it.
Things get further complicated when Hackensacker’s sister Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor) becomes interested in Tom (who Gerry says is her brother Captain McGlue!). With so many half truths it gets pretty nutty and even a little surprising. It’s also very easy to see how this film influenced movies like White Christmas and Some Like It Hot in many ways.
As with all of Preston Sturges’ movies the true star is the terrific script. He was so great at crafting frank and honest dialogue spoken from compelling characters. The banter between McCrea and Colbert is snappy and very fast paced but thankfully the actors are up for the task. Colbert is as good here as she is in It Happened One Night, and she has good chemistry with McCrea. They even manage to keep her likable despite her taking advantage of Hackensacker and not being very honest. Not an easy task!
I was impressed with how modern the script was in both tone and candor. Sex, marriage, divorce, infidelity, loneliness and depression are all discussed in ways that must have made the censors blush back then. Sturges even asks the question ‘is marriage necessary or a good thing?’. Of course, the answer is yes but it’s still a bold question for 1942. Later on in Unfaithfully Yours he will explore these themes even more, but I appreciated there was nothing cloying about the relationships in this script.
The only real downside is not all the physical comedy worked for me. All the actors are up for it but I preferred the more dialogue-based humor. Also, I don’t know that I completely buy the ending, but I don’t know that we are supposed to. I think it is meant to be a little bit of a poke at traditional romances with perfect happily ever afters. He even adds an ‘or not’ at the end to reinforce his point.
I definitely recommend checking The Palm Beach Story out if you like classic romances with great dialogue. It’s a wonderful choice for Valentine’s Day and a whole lot of fun! Also, studios should take a look at this film and consider remaking it or paying homage to it. The story and script is definitely still relevant and it would be interesting to see the themes of marriage explored even more so with modern characters.
As a serious devotee of cinema one of the things I get a bit of clack for is my love for romantic movies- particularly romcoms. I am an unabashed fan. I even recently started a new podcast with my friend Amber where we review the Hallmark Movies which are pretty much all romances (we are having an absolute blast by the way). It’s a new channel so if you are interested we could use new subscribers! Anyway in honor of the podcast I thought I would share with you some romantic films that I enjoy, which are often hated on (hate may be too strong of a word but you get the idea).
In no particular order
Everyone knows I especially love a good romantic Christmas movie and Last Holiday definitely fits the bill. Queen Latifah is warm and lovely as a woman named Georgia who finds out she has a month to live, so she decides to start living her dreams. This includes staying at a fancy hotel in Europe, eating good food instead of Lean Cuisine and buying the prettiest party dress.
LL Cool J plays her co-worker who is impressed with both versions of Georgia and they have terrific chemistry.
Romeo + Juliet
I honestly might like this film even better than Moulin Rouge. I enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s creative take on Shakespeare. He obviously gives it is his own flair but the core story remains in tact. The production design is great and the Shakespeare manages to feel natural.
Most importantly Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio have fantastic chemsitry and the supporting cast including Brian Dennehy and John Leguizamo are great.
No Strings Attached
In 2011 two films came out that dealt with casual relationships. I prefer No Strings Attached. This is directed by Ivan Reitman and it has his charm and engaging scripts. I find myself laughing out loud throughout the film. My favorite parts are when Adam is trying to impress Emma and he makes her a period cd full of songs like Bleeding Love. That always makes me laugh.
It’s no secret that Ashton Kutcher is not the greatest actor but I honestly think he is fine in this and Natalie Portman has never looked sexier in a film. This is a fairly strong R rating but I like it. Mindy Kaling is fun as her roommate.
A Walk in the Clouds
Like Ashton Kutcher, Keanu Reeves is also not the greatest actor in the world especially when he is trying to be sincere; However, there is so much else going for A Walk in the Clouds that I can deal with his performance. Directed by Alfonso Arau this movie looks gorgeous with vineyard cinematography and intimate camera work. I love all the other performances including Aitana Sanchez-Gijonb and Giancarlo Giannini as Reeves’ pretend wife and her strict father.
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton
Is this movie loaded with contrivances? Sure but at its heart are 3 good people who I want to see happy. I will put up with so many contrivances if a romance can give me that. Plus, I love Topher Grace. He is perfect in this role and Kate Bosworth and Josh Duhamel are great too. Charming, charming, charming!
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
I admit there may be a bit of nostalgia in this pick. This is a very sugary romance from 90s about a blind girl who becomes a horse diver despite the odds. It’s cheesy but I love Gabrielle Anwar and Michael Schoeffling. She is stunning and they have great chemistry. It’s a breezy 88 minutes and I love it!
Some Kind of Wonderful
I admit this one is a bit of a cheat as a lot of people like this movie but I feel like it is constantly overshadowed by Breakfast Club and 16 Candles and I like this better than both those films. It is fairly predictable story but underneath that plot are 3 very well written and acted characters. I particularly like Lea Thompson’s Amanda who should be the cliched judgy popular girl but she’s not. She has a personality and makes interesting choices. The chemistry between Watts and Keith is so strong. I love it!
The Rewrite was one of my favorite movies from 2014 and everyone I have shown it to has also liked it. It’s the kind of movie we never get any more but it’s really well executed. Hugh Grant is in top form as a screenwriter who is demoted to a teaching position in a small town. It has something to say about love, work, writing, movies, stories and more. The cast is tremendous with Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Marisa Tomei and more. It’s funny, thoughtful and sweet.
The Longest Ride-
This is probably my toughest sale of this post but I will try. Most Nicholas Sparks movies are awful because they are so emotionally manipulative usually killing off a major character just to make you cry. In The Longest Ride they don’t do that! They get close but then don’t do that. I liked Britt Robertson and Scott Eastman in this. They have great chemistry. I liked seeing them work out their differing career ambitions and I also liked the older couple played by Alan Alda, Jack Huston, and Oona Chaplin. I get why many don’t like it but I enjoyed it.
Some romances soar on the chemistry of its stars. Such is the case with Serendipity. Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack are so great together and I like them both so much that I enjoy going on this silly ride with them. The whole cast is actually solid with Molly Shannon, Jeremy Piven, John Corbett, Eugene Levy and more. New York never looked better and it’s easy for me to get swept away in the romance.
Another underseen romance from Queen Latifah on this list. She is beautiful in this film and is a nice contrast to the stunning but vapid Paula Patton (yet still likable in a kind of unlikable role). Latifah and Common have great chemistry and it’s another romance where we like both of them and want to see them happy.
The things that separate them are somewhat contrived but I was invested enough to not care.
Beautician and the Beast-
I suppose this film is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I know it is super contrived but I still enjoy it. Timothy Dalton is hilarious as the uptight dictator and I’ve always loved Fran Drescher. In fact, The Nanny is one of my favorite shows ever and this is basically a movie version of The Nanny. They have decent chemistry and it makes me laugh. Beauty and the Beast combined with Fran- what more could you ask for? LOL
So there you have it- my list of romantic films which aren’t appreciated enough. What about you? What are some romances you like that most people don’t? I’d love to hear your list. Thanks!
It’s late but I wanted to quickly let you guys know about a delightful movie I just saw called The Big Sick. I’d heard good things about it but it honestly exceeded my expectations and is without a doubt one of my favorites of the year and one of the best comedies (not just romcoms) I’ve seen in a long time. It’s one of the few movies of recent memory that I have no negatives on.
Part of what makes The Big Sick work so well is it is based on a true story of lead actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his wife Emily Gordon. This gives a warmth and heart to the movie that makes it feel very special. Zoe Kazan steps in to play Emily and the chemistry is effortless and easy to believe.
The script is a real star. There is a bit of profanity but it feels natural to the characters and how they would talk. Kumail is trying to be a stand up comic and at the same time deal with his strict Pakistani parents who are constantly trying to match him with a bride. The dialogue between all involved feels natural and hilarious while never being crass or vulgar.
I loved all the supporting performances but I honestly think Ray Ramano and Holly Hunter are nomination worthy as Emily’s parents. I wouldn’t mind seeing a whole movie just about their characters. There are so many ways they could have been cliches but they felt like actual unique human beings.
I also loved how it handled Kumail’s family and didn’t patronize them or turn them into caricatures as would have been easy to do. Coming from a strict religious family I related quite strongly to them and the situation Kumail was going through. It was handled just right! His stand up friends were also great. It was simply awesome!
There obviously is an illness involved but I will let you find that all out on your own. This movie made me laugh. It made me cry and it was a very late showing I was engrossed the entire time. I LOVED it!!
Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.