I’ve never been a big fan of the romantic comedy genre so when Rob asked me to do a Top 6 about them, I was sort of at a loss. But I thought about it and there are ones I like, but the ones I find more interesting are when they’re from the male lead’s perspective. They’re often just a silly or dumb as the usual, female-centric rom-coms, but since I am of the emo male persuasion when it comes to love, I connect to them. So here we have the top 6 romantic comedies told from the guy’s point of view.
VI – Forgetting Sarah Marshall
This is a movie about breaking up and moving on, but it’s done in some pretty insane and ridiculous ways, and that’s why it hits home so well. Jason Segel (who also wrote the screenplay) plays Peter, a musician with an insanely famous girlfriend he loves. When she dumps him, he hits rock bottom, sets up base camp, and then proceeds to go ten miles deeper. He takes a vacation to Hawaii where he runs into his ex and her new boyfriend, which just leads to awkward confrontations and the revealing of personal truths. The movie is pretty hysterical but also instructs men on how to get over heartbreak and pull yourself up by your heartstrings and get on with it. It’s also the only movie in the Apatow canon, though he didn’t direct it, that I can stomach.
V – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
As you’ll see with all the entries on the list, female-centric rom-coms are about finding love whereas male-centric ones are about dealing with loss of love. What better way to deal with the dissolution of a relationship than to completely erase that person from your memory entirely? Charlie Kaufman’s out-there script is also, at its base, a very personal story about two people who aren’t right together, but can’t seem to live apart. Jim Carrey turns in some of his best nuanced acting and Kate Winslet delivers her usual great performance as these two heavily flawed individuals who choose to break up in the most childish way possible. Much also has to be said for Michel Gondry’s sparse, bleak scenery which adds to the isolation these characters feel.
IV – Shaun of the Dead
No, I’m not high. This isn’t a zombie movie; it’s a romantic comedy with zombies. It follows all the tropes of the genre: there’s the lovable loser hero with a dead-end job, his girlfriend who loves him but wants more out of life and their relationship, there’s the best friend who is even more loserly than the lead, her friends who aren’t very nice, and he has to win her back by proving he can be his own man. Of course, he does this by fending off a zombie apocalypse. The first half-hour of this movie is a pretty standard, though brilliant, British romantic comedy, and out of left field it butts up against a Romero-style undead massacre. However, I defy anyone to call this movie merely a horror comedy, or a “parody” which is a complete misnomer. The true conflict comes from the characters’ relationships. And Shaun cries, a lot.
III – (500) Days of Summer
Watch this movie and try not to feel like you just got dumped. But in a good way. “(500) Days of Summer” succeeds by being a very realistic story told in a hyper- unrealistic way. We learn things about Tom and Summer not chronologically, but biographically as they become important. We’re given both hindsight and foresight, the kind you only get from seeing the whole picture at once. It’s also impossible not to fall in love with Zooey Deschanel while watching the movie, which puts us directly where Tom is when the inevitable happens. It’s touching and truthful, and the soundtrack is pretty excellent, just don’t go reading into sad British pop songs when thinking about love.
II – Annie Hall
In many ways, Woody Allen is the thinking man’s romantic hero. He’s clearly an intellectual and not super good looking, but he has a charm that I, a pretty fair-to-middling looking chap, hope I exude. He’s also the most neurotic man who ever lived. Annie Hall is (500) Days of Summer before there was one. The character of Annie is less a real person than a representation of all women, or all girlfriends. If every relationship, good or bad, could be balled into one woman, it’d be Annie Hall. But that doesn’t stop Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, from dating a bunch of other women as well. The major theme of the movie is the old joke “I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member,” which is Alvy’s excuse/explanation for breaking up with women. In the end, though, Annie is much different (better or worse is debatable) than when she met Alvy, and he’s sort of the same, perhaps destined to repeat passed mistakes, but more confident. I’m forgetting to mention all of the really funny stuff. It is a comedy after all.
I – High Fidelity
Every male rom-com rolled into one, High Fidelity is all about dissecting relationships and trying to categorize them. Perennial romantic schlub John Cusack turns into his schlubiest role to date as Rob Gordon, the almost-a-loser record store owner who screwed up his current relationship out of childishness then revisits his previous ones to discover where he went wrong. There’s a brilliant semantics argument involving “Evil Dead II” by Cusack and Jack Black which adds to my appreciation of the film. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with his girlfriend Laura, yet he keeps trying to find something so he doesn’t have to settle down, in the end realizing what an ass-tard he’s being. Don’t we all hope one day we can realize what an ass-tard we’re being and come out of it okay? And when your mentor is Bruce Springsteen, it doesn’t help either. There you have it. Men have a soft side too. Now I feel kinda down about myself so I’m gonna watch “Die Hard.”