31 May 2015 1933 Views

Romantic Comedy Rules

by James Murphy

The 10 Rom-Com-mandments

As Man Up hits cinemas, it’s clear that Romantic comedies have certain rules. Please be alert to the following. If you find yourself faced with these recurring symptoms you MIGHT be watching Rom-Coms. Or living inside one (you lucky person).





  • Plot Pitch = Philosophical Question.


Can men and women ever be just friends? Is it possible to move on from the one you love? Is love at first sight ever true love? Is there just one person for everyone? Can I be a big corporate superman AND a decent human being?   Etc.


Said question / statement = frequently part of the film’s actual title or is at least narrated in voiceover / seen typed on someone’s Apple Mac during love induced insomniac blog post.



Hugh Grant with Kristin Scott Thomas in Four Weddings and a Funeral



  • Punctuated by Events


Weddings; graduations; funerals; company mergers; travel plans; meeting a deadline; Christmas /New Year’s/Valentines/Proms and so on.

There is therefore also a sense of family /community. Senior citizens on hand to give wise advice and shock laughs at once (‘You know..I had a young love once and he had a great butt’ sort of thing). One of these characters MIGHT die or have some sort of a health scare for just that hint of pathos.

Nobody ever truly leaves their High School / College grouping ‘we’ve been best friends forever’ / ‘they were the bully in high school’. Kooky /slightly skanky / dodgy Flatmate or best friend an absolute must. Cute, adorable couple in background offer support yet present no threat of upstaging the leads. Etc.



  • There will be at least one gay friend


The gay best buddy, even in today’s more enlightened times = somehow a flag that says ‘hero = nice guy and not some nasty homophobe ’. Our story’s nominal hero might begin the story a bit homophobic but then visit a gay bar / wedding and thereby reform, immediately. Because he’s so NOT gay! He’s STRAIGHT! Unlike his new GAY best buddy !

Gay buddy also makes even the most inadequate of heroes look better by removing one of his possible competitors? Imagine if Rupert Everett were the antagonist rather than supportive foil? He’d steal the leading lady immediately through charm and wit. A Gay bloke = great asset to hero.

In absence of handsome gay actor star..get a – possibly dare we say it – podgy yet funny and endearing sidekick? Same result (hero /heroine = instantly cooler /more attractive/sympathetic etc).


  • Last minute volte face race to the airport / station 

‘I finally realise that I LOVE him / her’. ‘But they’re on their way to (insert international location)’. ‘I MUST stop that plane!’ Cue frantic chase and probable last minute reconciliation and then end credits.



Geeky girl is secret beauty. Awkward dweeb gains newly found cult status. Total bastard becomes nice.  Fantasy lover poses temptation to cheat but is somehow reined in. Commitment-phobe settles finally on his one true love. Loser wins.  Quirky experiment or one off power fails yet sort of succeeds. Etc.


  • Everyone somehow has big, important jobs

Or at least lowly jobs in big and important locations. The fact that the workplace is spending hours simply thinking about ‘love’ is somehow overlooked. This policy seems to be working: as living spaces are all impossibly plush. And backed by access to weekend getaway breaks / lake houses and top hotels and restaurants.

Sometimes the protagonist will have to meet a deadline on a ‘big story’ or reinvent their flagging career or cure writer’s block on ‘that novel they’ve always been working on’. But if you do get suspended / fired / reinvent your entire business model overnight, all will be well rather than facing eviction / bankruptcy etc.




  •  Stalking is not illegal.


It’s perfectly okay to check an old flame’s facebook / twitter feed, staring at the screen for hours on end. Turning up at their flat/house; sabotaging their career and even infiltrating a major event in their lives such as a wedding is in no way creepy or weird. In other genres and in real life, Police and Lawyers would be called.


  • Meta-textual. Like, Sooo VERY ‘Meta’. Yah. 


Characters will quote movies (Fatal Attraction; It’s a Wonderful Life; Hitchcock; Woody Allen) and chomp popcorn / ice-cream while watching the classics. And the soundtrack is a bigger event than the film itself. Album will be wildly pricey on initial release and a must at every office party /BBQ et al. It ends up in bargain bins and car-boot sales a year later and is literally given away.


Each film MUST have at least one scene of a character embarrassingly miming to some forgotten 80s hit and dancing around their room /kitchen /the street etc. Sometimes they get caught, but it’s endearing and ironic. Not in any way bizarre or attention seeking. Mid-movie montages and closing credits MUST match some classic crooner cover.





  • It sets the cause of feminism back by a generation


Whilst simultaneously emasculating men. Note that the lady protagonist is frequently checking her weight / behaviour in search of male approbation. And yet the so called ‘man’ that wins said woman is rarely, if ever, some big macho super-man (no; they get dumped in favour of the more quirky yet funny / charming leading man; though that dynamic is sometimes reversed / adapted). 

This is where the Facebook status update as banal life story  / romantic failure history was born. Next time an online friend tells the world what they had for breakfast or a celebrity tweets a cryptic message about ‘moving on': don’t blame them. It’s the curse and legacy of the ROM-COM!






  • England (Lie Back and Think Of?)..


The British are probably involved, somewhere. Even in a quick glimpse. Cue red letter boxes; red phone boxes; red letter days and an idyllic, almost theme park aura to the place. English actors will serve either as bumbling yet ultimately adorable leading man / dastardly caddish villain / bit of both.

Tea will be running on tap and snow will of course be falling if it’s Christmas (which is still stuck in some Dickensian throwback). Money is no object here: everyone in England lives on a big estate (country not council) and narrates their life story like a Jane Austen book without the biting wit.


We LOVE romantic comedies and chick flicks. It’s BECAUSE we love them that we decoded the formula. Rom-com, thank you ma’m. 

Love and Kisses from Movie Viral. 


Sources inc (both good and bad examples: ie good = definitive; bad = poor copies); and yes the Richard Curtis / Nora Ephron ones = basically the template for greatness:


Four Weddings and a Funeral /Notting Hill /Love Actually /Bridget Jones’ Diary; When Harry Met Sally/ Sleepless in Seattle/You’ve Got Mail; Ten Things I Hate About You /She’s All That /Pretty in Pink; As Good as it Gets /Groundhog Day; What Women Want / Something’s Gotta Give; One Fine Day / Sex and the City; There’s Something About Mary / Along Came Polly; My Best Friend’s Wedding /Runaway Bride; Three Men and a Baby /Little Lady; The Holiday; Jerry Maguire/ Yes Man/American Pie/Music and Lyrics (and that’s just the beginning!).


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