Everybody loves a rom-com

Steve Carell and Julianne Moore in Warner Bros. Pictures'

Except for the trailers of "Final Destination 5" and an action movie with Zoe Zaldana, "Columbiana," all the other teasers and previews shown last night at a movie house in Alabang Town Center were romantic comedies. That included Friends with Benefits, New Year's Eve, One Day and two others whose titles escape me due to information overload.

And, of course, I was there to watch another rom-com entitled "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

Everybody loves a rom-com .  The genre is a happy compromise to attract the females without turning off their studs.  If the Miss is a romance junkie, the comedy will take of the Mister.  Besides, if you will dole out anything between P180 to P300 you better be amused or entertained.  In the universe of mall culture, leave the thinking man's cinema to the exclusive filmfests where everybody is talking angst and significant human experiences.  Cineplexes feed on the audience's insatiable hunger for romance, action, comedy …and 3D.

Now everybody who has seen it is talking about "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Aside from the fact that it stars the perfectly sculptured body of Ryan Gosling, it has Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon and the new Hollywood It Girl Amanda Stone. Good reviews for the film abound online are reasons enough to prod me to go out and see it even before it is released on DVD.

Yes, "Bridesmaids" had all the charms of "The Hangover" but on an estrogen overload.  The latest good laugh I had in a moviehouse was watching a foul-mouthed alien named "Paul."  But I had such high expectations about "Crazy, Stupid, Love" because of the power of word-of-mouth. People talking about a good movie they just saw is something more effective than any viral ad campaign on the internet or ceaseless TV teasers broadcast from sign on to sign off.  A first hand good review of a movie is better than any scandal presented as a blind item by Shalala.

I was not disappointed.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" is not a great film but it is a certainly damn good one.

It is not great because --- well, you can only take so much of this stuff all that seriously. But that is not a reason not to brand the work as good. After all, the movie is intelligent, witty, engaging … and, most important, funny without being all too predictable.  The audience is not grossed-out, freaked-out or, at worst, treated like Cesar in "The Rise of Planet of the Apes," where assumptions lie that an entertained public is necessarily so gullible to the point of being stupid.

The movie is an ensemble piece about finding soul mates and the life-long pursuit to win the heart and trust of that single person that the Universe has reserved for you. Siiiigh.  I mean, this could have been made right here in one of the studios in Quezon City --- but it was not.  And chances are it couldn't be done here for a very simple reason: it's not schmaltzy enough.

An interesting article in Entertainment Weekly enumerated the pitfalls of making good romantic comedies --- first and foremost of which is the importance of chemistry.  That is true: the power of the rom-com is founded on the charm of an above-the-title combination.

This holds well in our local cinematic landscape. This is precisely why Sara Geronimo is such a big movie star because she can be paired with John Lloyd Cruz or Gerald Anderson --- and it works.

That is why John Lloyd Cruz is understandably and unquestionably the biggest box office male lead today: he is not only the best young actor of the here and now --- but you can pair him up with almost anybody (including Luis Manzano) --- and it works.

That is also why certain efforts at romantic comedy, despite fineness in script and direction, fail at the box office because the audience couldn't care less nor feel any affection for the characters played by the leads.  Chemistry cannot be cheated nor pre-sold through highly contrived publicity gimmicks --- including allegedly falling in love with each other right before the opening of a movie. Utang na loob, please!

Moreover, "Crazy" is anchored on a middle age relationship between a husband and wife married for the past twenty or more years as they are undergoing their midlife crises.

Yes, there are all the other peripheral stories beautifully woven together complete with surprises --- but it is still Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore who are at the heart of the movie.  Now can you ever imagine a romantic comedy starring middle age actors in this country?  That is simply because our concept of romance begins at the time just before or right after the first menstrual cycle --- and ends by the time the girl hits the age of 30.

Romantic comedies in this country are understandably anchored on the youth --- because there is a cut-off age when romancing couples cease to be nakakakilig and are perceived to be nakakaasiwa or even nakakadiri.  We prefer to watch kids barely outgrowing their Barbie Dolls and their video games throwing goo-goo eyes at each other --- and yearning to discover the mysteries of human fertilization.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" can teach us a thing or two about good romantic comedies. Although still using the cinematic license of coincidence, sure-fire laughs and tricks of the trade, the movie leaves a beautiful aftertaste because it is charming, touching and true.  Moreover, except for Steve Carrell, it is wonderful to see actors not stereotyped as comedians bring laughter to our cinematic hours … if only because their performances are so real … and the joys of romantic comedies are so true.

Now this gives me this very strange and urgent craving to do another rom-com … but this time without using a 1980's hit song for the title or the theme.  I guess that much is still possible out here.


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