Tag: romcoms

Recent Romcoms Worth Checking Out

Tonight I went and saw the new romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians and it is delightful. I read the book of the same name prior to seeing the film and they change a bit but it is a pretty dead-on adaptation. I will post my full review on either my youtube channel or my other movie blog but I thought it would be fun to share something here first. With the success of Crazy Rich Asians you will definitely hear about the ‘return of the romcom’ and while I agree with that there have been some fun films that went under the radar that I think are worth checking out. Some aired on Hallmark Channel (check out my Hallmarkies podcast if you haven’t already) and some were feature films.

So here is my list of recent romcoms you should check out! (in no particular order)

everybody loves somebody

Everybody Loves Somebody

I feel like this film should have been a bigger hit than it is. You have Karla Souza playing a doctor who has put romance on hold after a disappointment with a love played by Jose Maria Yazpik. She convinces her coworker played by Ben O’Toole to accompany her to a family wedding and when her ex shows up things get complicated. One of the coolest things about this movie is it is effortlessly bilingual. Clara speaks in Spanish with her family and then English with Asher and others at work. This is very unique and made the movie feel special. Clara can be a bit unlikable but she eventually won me over. It’s really sweet and fun.

all for love

All for Love

All for Love comes from Hallmark and it is one of the best from last year. It stars Sara Rue as a romance novelist named Jo who has lost her mojo. Her last book didn’t go over well and she is facing a deadline that her manager needs to do well. Since the book is about a navy seal Jo’s manager gets her brother (Steve Bacic) to put Jo through boot camp. They spar at first of course but they have a sweet chemistry and there are really cute scenes like when Colin teaches Jo how to swim and when he writes her a letter because he is too scared to tell her how he feels. It’s really sweet and the supporting cast is very charming.

rewrite

The Rewrite

Despite getting decent reviews, The Rewrite flew under people’s radar. Hugh Grant teams together with Marc Lawrence again (2 Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics) and make a really good romantic comedy. Hugh Grant plays a screenwriter who won an Oscar early in his career and has struggled to duplicate that success. Desperate he takes a job as a screenwriting professor at a small college in New England hoping something else will come along soon and get him out of there. A big key in enjoying this movie is if you can put up with his terrible behavior at the beginning of the film and if you feel like his change is sincere. I did. I love him and Marisa Tomei who plays one of his students. I love Allison Janney who is his Jane Austen loving supervisor. I love J.K. Simmons as a fellow professor who loves his family so much he cries whenever he talks about them. It’s a movie that has something to say about writing, reading, movies and work which I appreciate. It’s a good one!

off the menu

Off the Menu

Off the Menu actually came out in 2018 and I think I’m the only one championing it. I thought it was so sweet and winning. It stars Santino Fontana as Joel a trust fund kid who works for his family Mexican fast food chain and is sent to the Southwest to find some new flavors. There he meets the fiery chef Javiera (Dania Ramirez) who is protective of her recipes but has instant chemistry with Joel. The food porn is great. The romance is sweet and funny. I just really enjoyed it.

cafe societyCafé Society

Woody Allen can definitely be hit and miss but I enjoyed his 2016 offering Café Society. This film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young man named Bobby who goes out to Hollywood in the 1930s to make it big. Along the way he meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) who is dating a married man and the stunning Veronica (Blake Lively who is the classic shiksa goddess in this). It’s light and breezy and has great performances. Corey Stoll steals every scene he is in as Bobby’s mobster brother.

bridget jones baby

Bridget Jones’s Baby

While not as strong as the original Bridget Jones movie this 3rd installment is a significant improvement over the terrible 2nd film. Renee Zellweger is back as Bridget and this time she has gotten herself pregnant and she isn’t sure is it Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) or the super sweet Jack (Patrick Dempsey). To be honest, the shenanigans involving the father and being pregnant didn’t do much for me but what I loved was every scene with her at her work for a television news station. Sarah Solemani as an anchor was hilarious and a scene where she mistakes a limo driver for the North Korean ambassador made me laugh. It’s not the greatest movie but I enjoyed it!

birthday wish

The Birthday Wish

One of the best films to come out of Hallmark in recent years is The Birthday Wish. In a very clever screenplay by Julie Sherman Wolfe, the delightful Jessy Schram plays Gwen a woman who takes her career seriously as a commercial director and has been in a relationship with someone she seemingly has lots in common with (the always great wrong guy Marcus Rosner). Meanwhile her assistant director Dave played by Luke MacFarlane is just a friend she hasn’t paid much attention to. Well one day she makes a wish on her birthday and gets a glimpse of her life in 10 years and to her shock Dave is there! I like that it doesn’t go all Family Man on her and that her career and dreams are always respected by the screenplay. Luke MacFarlane and Jessy Schram have great chemistry and it’s really sweet and pleasant. I love it!

love and friendshipLove and Friendship

Honestly it feels a little unfair to have Love and Friendship in the same conversation as these other films as it is so far superior but oh well! Kate Beckinsale is so great as Lady Susan Vernon a woman who delights in manipulating and getting the best out of her friends and relatives. This might make her unlikable but as her relatives are stupid it is just hilarious. I love Whit Stillman’s adaptation. Someone like Lady Susan isn’t supposed to win in Jane Austen and yet I found myself rooting for her especially in her scenes with Chloe Sevigny’s character (so funny). It looks gorgeous and the entire cast does a great job. The fact that it got snubbed at the Oscars is ridiculous.

dash of love

Dash of Love

One of my biggest take-aways from covering Hallmark last year was how great director Christie Will Wolf is and how much I love Jen Lilley. I wasn’t crazy about their recent collaboration Yes I Do but Dash of Love and Eat Play Love from last year were delights. In Dash of Love Jen Lilley plays Nikki an aspiring self-taught chef who dreams of working in a fancy kitchen. Through various contrivances she ends up getting a job at her culinary idol’s (Peri Gilpin from Frasier) restaurant. There she meets chef Paul (Brendan Penny) and they start a really sweet engaging romance. Some of the conflict involving Paul’s family is a little much for me but this is classic romcom executed very well. The leads have chemistry and all the food porn is great. It’s very romantic and enjoyable.

So there you go! That is my recommendation for recent romantic comedies. Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments section and if you’ve seen any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Austenland: A Review

austenlandI know I am about a year and half late on this review but I put off seeing Austenland because I hated the book so the movie didn’t hold much promise for me.  However, enough of my friends and family encouraged me to see it, and claimed it was better than the book, I finally decided to watch it on my Netflix.

And the verdict is….

Basically the same as the book but I didn’t have to live in the movie for days so I suppose the movie is more tolerable.

So some things to mention before the review- I am a huge Austen fan.  I read her 4 most popular books in the winter break of 1998 and was hooked.  Since then I have read all 4 and even all 6 every year usually in the summer.  They are witty and the heroines are bold and yet weak.  Of course, I love the romance but it is the characters journey as told through romance that works.  The romance itself is fairly predictable.

That’s where this book and movie are misguided.  Austen’s stories are not great because they are romantic.  They are great because they involve choices, judgements, forgiveness, foolishness and of course love.  In the story of Austenland we lose all but the love and it makes for a very unsatisfying story.

The story of Austenland starts out with an interesting lead character.  Jane, played by Kerri Russell, is a die hard Austen fan.  This could be the female version of the many ‘manchild’ movies we’ve seen with men who can’t grow up (usually with Will Farrell or Seth Rogan).  I would be interested to see more movies with these type of women.

Austenland was also directed, written, and produced almost entirely by women, which I think is great.  In the words of Cate Blanchett ‘the world has curves’ and movies should reflect this.  The fact that so many movies fail something as basic as the Bechtel test is very sad indeed. We should do better.

That said, I am not going to give it a pass merely because of it’s female pedigree. That would be unfair.  I have to judge it like any other movie.

So, back to the story… Jane gets an inheritance and decides to fulfill her life dream and go to a living play experience called Austenland.  It is similar to the murder mystery parties that were popular about 10 years ago but over a few weeks.  All of the staff are actors playing parts down to the servants.

Jennifer Coolidge gets some of the funniest bits as a ditzy American guest (she has played this role many times before with funnier dialogue. See the Christopher Guest movies).  But even her lines feel so strained and molded into this ridiculous premise.  Whether in the book or movie I couldn’t buy this place existing and appealing to anyone, even the most die hard of Austen fans.

However, even if you accept the premise, so many of the jokes fall flat. For example, there is an extended scene with a play that I didn’t think was funny.  There are pratfalls and falls on horses that weren’t funny.  And a horse giving birth scene, which would have you believe a foal comes out in the time it takes a woman to grab a handful of hay or at least that Jane believes such a thing. Really, Jane?

Then things became awkward when a member of the ‘cast’ assaults Jane and yet she continues on with her stay.  Did she just think that was part of the play?  A little regency era attempted rape to complete your stay….Like I said it went from unfunny, to uncomfortable, to even a little creepy.

You also see the behind the scenes of the actors which makes the scenes in costume feel even weirder.   And yet with all that they tag on the most unbelievable ending.  Like I said earlier, Austen’s romances worked because of choices the characters make, tough choices.  They are often brave and loyal to a fault.  The characters that are impetuous, romantic and silly, are all either taught to be more sensible or are unhappy in their choices (Lydia, Marianne, Mary Musgrove, Catherine and even Emma).

Aside from coming to the park and then leaving, Jane in Austenland, doesn’t really make any tough choices.  Everything happens to her not by her, making the story less gripping. There is not the sense of a character growing and the viewer isn’t left wondering ‘will Jane’s foibles spoil her chance at real love?’.

Austen’s heroines do not need rescue, and they would not have had dramatic romcom scenes at airports.  Maybe a letter perhaps (or lengthy email). but I can’t think of any bold romantic gestures in any Austen book.  Perhaps Darcy fixing Lydia’s problem but even that expected no fanfare. and he didn’t even want Lizzy to know of his involvement.  Such soft and subtle characters build tension and makes the endings so satisfying.  They are not simply wild passionate love but the careful consideration of two hearts meant to be together, that almost weren’t.

The couple in Austenland don’t spend much time together, and they have even less actual conversations (and a lot of that is staged for a long time or we don’t know how much is staged by either one).  The ending would have been a lot more satisfying if she had sued the place and changed her life (actually learned something…).

In the end, it just didn’t make me laugh.  A big problem in a comedy.  I think I’ll go watch Mr Collins propose.  Now that is funny…

Overall Grade D

Content Grade B+ (It’s pretty innocent.  Even the assault is tame, birth tame, some heaving bosoms, no bad language)

I’m always open for others opinions.  Don’t worry I have thick skin, so please comment.

If you want a more satisfying, if still imperfect, modern version of women confronting Jane Austen try The Jane Austen Book Club.