Some of the Best Romantic Comedies of the Last Decade

0
424
Related eBooks

Despite reports to the contrary, the romantic comedy is not dead. On television and in film, creators have been granted the freedom to upend traditional expectations for the genre. Glossy candlelit love scenes are out, replaced by rawer and more naturalistic depictions of sex. Happy endings, too, have given way to bittersweet conclusions and melancholy. And while there are still plenty of projects about good-looking white people falling in love in New York, the explosion of creative outlets available has also led to new voices and new kinds of romances. Most of all, though, the romantic comedy in 2017 is not just one thing: Projects like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Lobster delight in twisting rom-com tropes, while movies like The Proposal and Silver Linings Playbook prove there’s more than one way to play them straight. There’s room for all of them on our list of the best romantic comedies of the past ten years.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015– )
“When you call her crazy, you’re just calling her in love.” That’s a line from the season-two theme song for this daffy and savage musical rom-com, and it’s a fair summary of what Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is about: the wrongheaded idea, often perpetuated by romantic comedies, that women are emotionally unstable and willing to do anything to snag a man. Of course, protagonist Rebecca Bunch, played by the unceasingly energetic Rachel Bloom, is emotionally unstable and, as the series begins, willing to do anything to snag her man of choice, including spontaneously moving all the way across the country. But the sharp honesty of the song-and-dance numbers — “Settle for Me,” the breakup ode “It Was a Shit Show,” the delusional “We’ll Never Have Problems Again” — and the romantic disappointments that befall every character are confirmation that what’s actually crazy are the fairy tales and rom-coms that brainwashed Rebecca Bunch in the first place. — Jen Chaney

Her (2014)
A movie in which a piece of technology falls in love with a human? Yeah, that’s been done before. (See: 1984’s Electric Dreams.) But Spike Jonze imagines the romantic possibilities in a more modern, richly constructed, deep, absurd, and sobering narrative that’s just right for these digitally dominated times. In Her, the meet-cute between Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson) is really a voice-only encounter between a man and his Siri or Alexa. But it leads to flirtation, then sexual attraction, and then possibly genuine feeling, raising the question: Can a man love a woman when the woman is not real? If conventional rom-coms overlook the concerns and emotions a real woman might express, this one took that a step further by cutting out the real woman altogether, and showing us how impossible it is to exist in a partnership when one partner isn’t fully present. — JC

You’re the Worst (2014– )
Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) hook up in the first episode of You’re the Worst after begrudgingly attending a wedding. Both are adamant that their encounter will not lead to a long-term relationship. But of course it does, and these two horribly selfish, unethical people teach each other to find the better angels in their natures. No, wait. That’s not what happens at all. The relationship continues but these two reprobates keep on being the kind of assholes who cheat and stalk and get off on visiting murder scenes, even though it seems like maybe they could love each other in a real way. When most of the characters on this show wade into even mildly sentimental waters, they dash out of the ocean screaming in horror and running as fast as they can. In this L.A. story, everyone is awful. That’s why it’s the best. — JC

Catastrophe (2015– )
Truly, a romance between two adults! Catastrophe, created and written by the transatlantic duo of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, starts with the premise of what might happen when two fairly mature and reasonable people have a vacation relationship (lots of sex), accidentally conceive a baby, and then decide to keep it and raise it together. The show never gets cloying, in part because our protagonists are too gimlet-eyed to fall for any bullshit, ooey-gooey courtship, but also because having a child when you’re no longer 22 years old means increasing health risks. Catastrophe always brings a reality smackdown to keep our characters tethered to the ground, but it keeps the faith that the couple, and the viewers, are in this. — E. Alex Jung

Knocked Up (2007)
Hailed as an instant classic upon its release, Knocked Up, in many ways, set the template for the next decade of rom-coms. Sex here isn’t a consummation; instead, it happens early and awkwardly. While there is a plot, director Judd Apatow makes plenty of time for lazy scenes of 20-something slackers hanging out. And above all, it’s unafraid to get depressing, showing all the ways both single life and domesticity can crush a person’s soul. (That schlubby Seth Rogen is paired up with beautiful Katherine Heigl was less revolutionary, but would be no less common in the rom-coms that followed.) —Nate Jones

Bridesmaids (2011)
After the success of Judd Apatow films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, it felt like the rom-com was officially shifting its attention toward man-child protagonists. But Bridesmaids, released in 2011 and also produced by Apatow, put its manicured hands on either side of the camera and forcefully tugged the focus onto the women. The movie earned a lot of attention for being a box-office smash that was both female and filthy, prompting crude women across America to respond by belching the words, “Really? We’re like this all the time.” What was more remarkable about Bridesmaids, aside from its two Oscar nominations, including one for best original screenplay, was its focus on the falling out and rekindling of feeling between the bride (Maya Rudolph) and her blundering maid of honor (Kristen Wiig), who shared a much more obvious chemistry than the soon-to-be husband and wife. — JC

Obvious Child (2014)
Just as Donna (Jenny Slate) is about to tell the man she had a one-night stand with that she’s pregnant and has decided to get an abortion, he holds a butter packet between his palm, warming it for her. It’s an innocent and disarming moment, very Tom Hanks-in-a-Nora Ephron-film thing to do. Obvious Child is full of these cutsey moments that blend sweetness and frankness. Slate plays Donna with the perfect mix of humor and immaturity, while Jake Lacy’s Max is charming, and a little lame — the two of them have an uncanny chemistry that works better as intimacy than full-on sex appeal, which matches the movie’s perceptiveness about the awkwardness of a new romance. —Hunter Harris

Jane the Virgin (2014– )

In its earliest episodes, Jane the Virgin appears to be a classic romantic-comedy — uncomplicated by ambiguity, unhappy endings, or the mundane realities of normal life that have come to characterize more modern romance stories. There’s a love triangle, there’s a pregnancy, there are breakups and reunions and comedic obstacles. But Jane the Virgin’s modernity is both underplayed and profound. As the show progresses, the high-flying fantasyland elements are largely reserved for its melodramatic telenovela plots, while Jane’s personal life becomes one of the most grounded, emotionally realistic elements of the show. She struggles to balance parenting responsibilities with her son’s father, and the sex with her new husband isn’t great at first. Jane the Virgin’s insistence on her everyday humanity, combined with its simultaneous commitment to her happiness is quietly, ebulliently modern. — Kathryn VanArendonk

500 Days of Summer (2009)
Director Marc Webb throws out every trick in the Twee 101 textbook — candy-colored visuals, musical numbers, split-screen sequences — in his debut feature, and what do you know, it works! The movie catalyzed a certain millennial aesthetic, but don’t hold that against it: It’s still a remarkably clear-eyed look at love and memory. Contrary to Hall & Oates, just because someone makes your dreams come true, doesn’t mean it’s the real thing. —NJ

Younger (2015– )
Younger is founded on one of the most familiar, staid romantic comedy tropes – its heroine has to disguise something about her true nature, and her secret becomes a major obstacle in her search for love. Over the course of its three seasons to date, Younger has remained closer to the comedic side of the romantic comedy than many other entries on this list, as Liza and other women on the show grapple with things like dating apps, period sex, and what to do when your boyfriend asks you to read his novel. Amid all that, Younger has really shined in its ability to present Liza’s love triangle in a surprisingly balanced way, and in centering on her career and her female friendships rather than her relationship status. —KV

Master of None (2015– )
For several reasons, Master of None is a paradigm for the new indie romantic comedy. It spends time making self-aware observations about dating in the modern era. It presents us with tropes of romance and then offers more realistic alternatives. Structurally, Master of None barely even follows a familiar romantic arc, preferring instead to rely on linked stand-alone episodes that operate more like a short-story cycle than a single text. But probably the most notable element is its weirdly satisfying unhappy ending: After watching Dev go through many of the usual romantic steps (bad dates, other love interests, moving in together, fights, thinking about marriage), his girlfriend Rachel decides that she’s not sure about their life together, and the season ends with them parting ways. What more fitting commentary is there about the state of modern love than ultimately breaking up and moving to Italy to study pasta? —KV

Insecure (2016– )
“Every black girl that went to college likes Drake,” an old boyfriend tells Issa Rae in the Insecure pilot. “[Drake] just gets us,” Issa responds — and that “us” is significant. Insecure is funny, but much of its humor comes from how it centers the black experience. There are enough TV romantic comedies that speak to the universal parts of falling in and out of love. On Insecure, the usual rom-com hijinks get fresh settings: someone’s cousin’s bad church play, a girls’ weekend away, a rap freestyle that empowers you to take charge like Solange. The best rom-com heroines have friends with full and interesting lives, and Insecure’s writing is similarly generous, spreading the character flaws and the biting one-liners around to show living, breathing friendships between black women. —HH

Please Like Me (2013– )
Amid the paucity of romance stories with gay leads, Australian comedy Please Like Me stands out for its unpretentious sweetness and surprising complexity. The 20-something Josh (series creator Josh Thomas) comes out in the pilot and, while also caring for his depressed Mum, tries to make things work with a string of very cute boyfriends. Please Like Me adapts the rom-com’s stylistic quirks — flattering lighting, pastel colors, gorgeous shots of food – to modern rom-com stories about everything from awkward sex to homophobic family members. —Jackson McHenry

The Mindy Project (2012– )
In so many ways, The Mindy Project feels like the project that led the charge for the new rom-com, with its bright colors, obsession with romance, and hyperbolic and dramatic protagonist, Mindy Lahiri (played by show creator Mindy Kaling). What made the series new when it debuted in the fall of 2012 was how aware it was of its own references. Mindy Lahiri was someone who feasted off ‘90s rom-coms, but from the beginning, The Mindy Project has gone its own way, leaving plenty of ambiguity about whether there really is a happily ever after. —EAJ

Sleeping With Other People (2015)
Writer-director Leslye Headland proves in her second film that she has a talent for creating rich portraits of some of the ugliest human behavior. The film stars Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie as two college acquaintances who lose their virginity to each other, then reconnect 12 years later. She’s cheating on her longtime boyfriend with a married ex, while his quest for casual dalliances borders on sex addiction. They become good friends but develop romantic feelings that make things complicated. What makes this film more than just “When Harry Met Sally but with assholes” is the complex relationship the characters have with sex, which runs the gamut from transcendent to just plain fun to disappointing. (There is even a frank, hilarious conversation about female masturbation.) More than that, Sleeping With Other People goes against the usual vision of falling in love as a magical happenstance in favor of something more complex: Love isn’t just an emotion, it’s a choice. —Angelica Jade Bastién

Results (2015)
Andrew Bujalski’s shaggy comedy at first seems like it will center on an out-of-shape man (Kevin Corrigan) who signs up for personal-training classes. But it quickly finds its home in the push-pull dynamics between the two personal trainers (Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce, both maniacally intense) who start training him. Results is a delightful study in what happens when people fall in love over the same obsessions — in this case, fitness itself. —JM

Enough Said (2013)
Most romantic comedies focus on young, attractive people who are unburdened by the future. In Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, everyone, from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s masseuse to her new friend Catherine Keener to Keener’s ex-husband James Gandolfini, has baggage. Enough Said’s west side L.A. breeziness comes with an undercurrent of melancholy. It’s a rom-com about people who think they’re done with romance, but keep falling into it anyway. —JM

Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Definitely, Maybe feels at home in the 1990s, but somehow stretched the barriers of time and space and got released in 2008. Ryan Reynolds, back when he was just an ordinary dude with a perfectly symmetrical face, tells of his affairs with three different women he does not deserve, all in order to finally explain his divorce to his daughter. And yet, Definitely, Maybe ends up being more than the sum of its many conventions. Reynolds’s character starts out working on the Clinton campaign and ends up a disgruntled corporate schmuck. All idealism, romantic or otherwise, fades, which, honestly, is a pretty grim story to tell Abigail Breslin. —JM

The Lobster (2015)
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s dark rom-com stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz as two single people in a dystopian society that really hates single people. Farrell, in fact, has been sent to a home for singles where he has to find a mate in 45 days lest he be turned into an animal of his choosing (a lobster). The movie is a fine absurdist comedy, with droll performances and a wicked sense of humor that teeters on that thin line between comedy and death. —EAJ

Chewing Gum (2015— )
The E4 sitcom is based on the one-woman show by Michaela Coel, and consequently has a sharp, auteurist sensibility with a distinct worldview. Coel plays Tracey, a 24-year-old virgin trying desperately to punch that V-card while living in a London housing estate with a zealously religious mother and sister. The show, based on Coel’s own experiences living in Tower Hamlets, is unlike anything else you might see on television. But beyond that, it’s also got a zany, high-octane energy fueled by the elastic face and physical comedy of its star, who keeps falling into the very unsexy, virgin trap of trying to act very sexy. —EAJ

What If (2013)
If I told you there was a great rom-com about smart young urbanites starring Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver, I know you’d roll your eyes at me. Another one? But the thing that makes this one magical is star Daniel Radcliffe, fully leaning into his post-Potter awkwardness; he’s charming and nervous and his ease with his co-stars reminds you why he’s a leading man. Plus, Zoe wears some fun shirts. —Tara Abell

Adventureland (2009)
Having a shitty summer job is a universal rite of passage, but we should all be so lucky to have met someone like Kristen Stewart’s Em on the clock. The effortlessly cool amusement park attendant was Stewart’s first great role, concealing more insecurity and dysfunction than Jesse Eisenberg’s heartsick James could initially realize. Their flawed courtship gives a strong emotional foundation to this nostalgic remembrance of what it feels like to be young, bored, and spinning your wheels. (Can’t beat the Replacements-heavy soundtrack, either.) —Charles Bramesco

Cyrus (2010)
Just when we thought the rom-com genre had all but bludgeoned the love triangle to death, Jay and Mark Duplass came up with a fresh spin on the trope, making the third person a possessive, childlike 21-year-old who doesn’t like seeing his mother with a new man. Jonah Hill is sublimely off-putting in the title role, a constant saboteur of the budding relationship between his mama Marisa Tomei and suitor John C. Reilly. Nothing ties a sweet little indie romance together quite like soft incestuous undertones. —CB

The Proposal (2009)
A high-powered executive hastily strong-arms an underling into marrying her when visa issues threaten to deport her to Canada, but to pull off the scheme, she’ll have to travel to an Alaskan hamlet to meet his folks. It’s the sort of improbable premise that only exists to set up crowd-pleasing hijinks for two charming movie stars, and luckily, watching Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds gradually embrace their natural chemistry is a simple, immediate strain of moviegoing pleasure. —CB

Warm Bodies (2013)
The logline — “romance slowly blossoms between a zombie and his human crush” — sounds like a film student’s cutesy senior thesis, but that narrative hook ends up as a rich metaphor for all the personal baggage that keeps people in love apart. Like any other couple, these two have their differences, but they gradually bond over the slices of common ground they find in spite of them. Nicolas Hoult’s undead ghoul may not have a heartbeat, but he’s still got a heart. —CB

Beginners (2010)
Life, it has been said, is for the living. This axiom drives geriatric Hal (Christopher Plummer) to come out of the closet in his mid-70s, and in turn, the self-actualizing bravery of that choice compels his adult son (Ewan McGregor) to pursue a passionate relationship with a charming French actress (Mélanie Laurent). Director Mike Mills brings the same bone-deep empathy to Hal’s late-in-the-game bid at true love that he does to the earnest romance between the younger stars. —CB

The One I Love (2014)
Charlie McDowell’s film follows a couple (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) who take a weekend retreat at a secluded estate in hopes of repairing their marriage. Things take a turn straight out of The Twilight Zone when they discover their doppelgängers in the guesthouse. Are they just meant to be idealized versions of themselves, or is something more sinister going on? Things get even more complicated and heartbreaking when the original couple both fall for the doubles. As an intense story about the perils of idealizing the people you claim to love, and the impossibility of living up to this ideal, The One I Love is worth watching for Moss’s excellent performance alone. But it’s the film’s exploration of how couples fall in and out of love that truly makes it a worthy entry. —AJB

Top Five (2014)
Written, directed, and starring Chris Rock, this raunchy romantic comedy represents a career highlight for its creator. Rock plays a comedian and recovering alcoholic who is trying to transition from lowbrow blockbusters to a serious film career. Rock’s character soon falls for a New York Times journalist interviewing him (an excellent Rosario Dawson), and it’s her performance that lends pathos and easy charm to the film. Top Five does fall into a few troubling well-worn tropes, but the film’s commitment to remixing the Cinderella fairytale, its critique of Hollywood life, the exploration of hip-hop culture, and its depiction of an interracial romance that isn’t black and white, all make it worthwhile. —AJB

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
What keeps America’s A-list actresses from starring in rom-coms? A desire for more prestigious work? A fear of becoming the next Katherine Heigl? Whatever the reason, the success of Silver Linings Playbook proves you can still get great young actresses into rom-coms, as long as you dress them up as Oscar-worthy movies first. David O. Russell’s dialogue crackles, and the Philadelphia locations are the opposite of glossy, but in true rom-com form, the whole movie rests on the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, as two broken people who are clearly made for each other. —NJ

Drinking Buddies (2013)
Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson are friends who are dating other people, even though they’re obviously into each other. When they and their partners take a double date to a lakeside cabin, you think you know which way things are going to go. But Drinking Buddies, by mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg, zigs instead of zags; the result is a movie that’s more honest than most about the realities of what makes relationships work. —NJ

Lovesick / Scrotal Recall (2014 – )
The best thing Netflix ever did was change the name of this British series when it picked it up for a second season. The worst thing it did was give it a new one as generic as the old one was disgusting. While the show hasn’t caught fire the way other Netflix originals have, it’s a sweet-hearted surprise for anyone who stumbles across it in their recommendations. A time-jumping tale of three friends and one case of chlamydia, the series explores how growing up means making peace with roads not taken. It’s a fitting heir to How I Met Your Mother, no matter what it’s called. —NJ

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Five years before La La Land, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone shared their first onscreen romance in this twisty rom-com, which follows the complicated relationships of one family, from marriage and divorce to friendship, first crushes, and unrequited love. In the end, it turns out everyone’s connected! It’s like Love Actually, with less cynicism, and more shirtless Ryan Gosling. —Madeleine Buckley

In a World … (2013)
The best thing about In a World … is that it serves as a departure from the jobs of rom-coms past: Lake Bell’s Carol isn’t a chatty gossip columnist, a disorganized event planner, or even especially career obsessed. Instead, she’s an unambitious and bedraggled voice coach. Carol is passionate about own voice-over work, but her career is swallowed up in her father’s massive ego — as a voice-over veteran, his syrupy masculine voice is the industry standard. When Carol’s own career picks up, she spends more time avoiding the industry’s boys’ club than being wooed by it, and when she finally realizes that a sound producer has a crush on her, it’s a courtship nervous enough to turn this romantic comedy into a kind of coming of age — a woman building an identity independent of the male voices she’s compared to. —HH

Love (2016 -)
Love is not a great show. I don’t even like Love. But if there’s one thing I admire about the Netflix show, it’s how ruthlessly it attacks the very core of romantic comedies. Its heroes, Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust), are both selfish, unlikable people who, after an aggressively not cute meet-cute at a corner market, try to be in a relationship with one another. Over the course of the series, they fail miserably at it when their own expectations are not met. By the end, when Mickey confesses to Gus that she’s a sex and love addict, and he responds by kissing her, it feels reminiscent of your standard, rom-com happily ever after moment. The only difference is, the thought of them being together is the most toxic, repulsive idea imaginable. —Gazelle Emami

SOURCE

 

Comments

comments

NO COMMENTS