Guys, another renaissance is upon us. It’s sweeping the world (especially Netflix) and if you haven’t heard about it, then time to drag your a$$ from that rock you’ve been chilling under. I am, of course, talking about the rise of the rom-com. They’re back, people! A genre that was saturated with clichés and impossible ideals is finally bringing us something new. Relatable, diverse characters. Interesting, real storylines. Better messages to take away (mostly.) Don’t know what I mean? Here are 4 rom-coms that are bringing new life to the genre in 2018…
To All The Boys I Loved Before
Based on the YA novel (a trilogy, this is the first book of the series) by Jenny Han, this film took longer than expected to make. If you’ve seen it, naturally you’ll ask why?! It’s adorable, the characters are endearing and kind hearted and the story is engaging. You’re right to ask why because the option to make it into a movie was up for a while, but Jenny Han faced one ‘issue’. Everyone that wanted to buy the rights wanted her to change to her leading lady to a white leading lady. They didn’t understand how anyone could relate to a Korean-American 16-year-old girl. But like a true boss, Han told them to do one and then Netflix came along! Giving is the beautiful, authentic experience that is TATBILB.
Say Hello to Diverse Casting and Bye to Stereotypes
Rom-coms have been known for having the same formula. Majority with the leading cast members being white, with a sprinkle of one dimensional, heavily stereotyped ‘diverse’ characters thrown in. 2018 has shown the money in Hollywood that a story doesn’t have to be predominantly white or whitewashed to appeal to the masses. Yes Asian-Americans related to Lara Jean because she looked like them. Her dad (white) struggling to cook Korean food, so they would never lose their heritage is an experience they could connect with. Going to specific stores to get treats from where they’re from is another experience they could connect with. They were experiences that a lot of minority groups could connect with too.
Lara Jean (Lana Condor) is portrayed as an average 16-year-old girl. She still deals with the issues that any girl her age would. School, boys, talking to parents about safe sex. She wasn’t made into an Asian stereotype. She was real and that’s all anyone wants to see, someone they can see themselves in. Representation is important and that is what rom-coms are picking up on. Aside from the representation, TATBILB gave us some great people to love and say “that’s basically me!”
Lara Jean feeling like every crush is love? Been there. Her being afraid to let people in because that’s how you get hurt? Check. Margot (Janel Parrish) worrying about being a good example to her younger sisters? Yup. Peter K (Noah Centineo) projecting confidence, but feeling deeply insecure about whether a girl likes him? Yes. This film has it all and if I haven’t convinced you yet, enjoy this GIF of Peter Kavinsky, who just happens to be the Internet’s new boyfriend. He is setting the bar for ya, boys! Level up!
So, I watched this on the plane and can I just say what a challenge it is to hold back tears in public?! Prepare yourselves right now, this one is a tearjerker! Also based on a YA novel (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens) by Becky Albertalli, the story is one that a lot of the LGBTQ community have said they wish had been around when they were young and in Simon’s (Nick Robinson) position. The tagline of the movie, “Everybody deserves a great love story”, truly captures the essence of this movie. A 17-year-old boy who is just like you, but with a giant secret…
He’s gay and no one knows. Simon doesn’t encompass any gay stereotypes that are so played out in movies. He doesn’t wear glitter. He doesn’t have boy band posters in his room. He’s just a teenage boy with a loving family, active social life and a secret… This film explores the concept of coming out, how personal that decision is and what it means today. It looks at what can happen after coming out, especially in the face of social media. The loneliness that a lot of the LGBTQ community have talked about feeling before coming out is conveyed realistically and beautifully.
One of the great things about this movie? It wasn’t a small indie (not that they aren’t great!) This was a major blockbuster fronted by a big studio (FOX) with a gay protagonist at the centre. It’s rare that Hollywood wants to take risks on stories like this on such a large scale, but millions are glad that they did. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most of all you’ll come away with a better understanding of what millions go through every day, purely because of who they love.
Set It Up
Millennials struggling to survive in today’s economy? FINALLY! A rom-com with characters leading realistic lives. They work as assistants, they have flatmates, Harper (Zoey Deutch) steals toilet paper from work, they know other people doing odd jobs but are great connections. They’re underpaid, overworked and still crawling up from the bottom of the job ladder, but aspiring for bigger things. Harper wants to be a writer. Charlie (Glen Powell) is still figuring out what he wants to be, but he knows it’s not the position he has now. We have all been these two at some point, if not right now. They. Are. Us.
I mean, we could all relate to Harper’s struggle of using Tinder and being surprised that even the seemingly nice guys have huge f**boi potential. Charlie not having time to see his model girlfriend because he’s always working late and her looking down on that? Who among us hasn’t had to cancel/postpone plans because of work and then had to explain why it’s necessary?!
This rom-com had it all, even down to casting people that were around the age of the characters they were playing. A rarity in a sector where 28-year olds regularly play high school students. Aside from bucket loads of relatability, Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell deliver stand out comedic performances. With Lucy Lui, Taye Diggs, Titus Burgess and Pete Davidson added to the mix, you know it’ll be a right laugh. Plus, it has one of the best rom-com one liners in a while. No spoilers! You’ll have to watch it for yourselves 😉
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser
Love it or hate it (it should be said that I can talk about this movie’s issues for DAYS!) Sierra Burgess is a Loser gave us a new type of rom-com female lead. They portrayed a woman who didn’t fit into the usual size 0 mould. Shannon Purser (of #justiceforbarb fame, aka. Stranger Things) has been in a few other small roles including Riverdale and Rise. However, this was her time as leading lady. A beauty for sure however, due to her being considered plus sized, she’s not usually considered the rom-com leading lady. Now, and this is where it gets tricky, the movie definitely had good intentions, but approached it all wrong.
Firstly, great to see different body types being represented. However, the character of Sierra Burgess starts off likeable enough, but soon becomes wholly intolerable. You’re just not rooting for her by the end. How can you be? When you think about her and the main guy getting together (the loveable, honest Jamey played Noah Centineo. Yes, the man that brought Peter Kavinsky to life) you don’t think she deserves him in the end. Not because of anything to do with her appearance, but because she’s displayed some atrocious behaviour.
Body Type is Not an Excuse For Bad Behaviour
After catfishing him (which is never ok) more outrageous lying and a highly morally questionable first kiss, she hasn’t really redeemed herself by the end. On top of that, she’s horrible to her friends. One scene is especially problematic when she overreacts and takes things way too far. A simple conversation would have sorted it out (tip, you’ll know the scene when you see it. Two words: football field.) To top it all off, after this Sierra gives an impassioned speech about how her looks have affected her, but it falls flat. It seems like she using it as excuse and there is no excuse that would make her behaviour ok by that point.
The film does have some good points. It gives us a layered queen bee (Kristine Froseth) who does redeem herself, it gives us a plus sized leading lady, it gives us a new leading man character to lust after and #bestfriendgoals with Dan (RJ Cyler). However, that’s all mostly lost because of Sierra Burgess’ characterization. By the end, you’re more on the skinny, popular girl Veronica’s side defeating the film’s main purpose. Rom-coms regularly rely on the main characters being likeable, can you have a successful rom-com without that?
So, there you have it. 4 rom-coms that are bringing new life to the genre in 2018. For their pros and cons, they’ve all got us talking about real topics. Yes, they’ve been entertaining, but they’ve also shown that a rom-com can be more than just a sugary time filler. Another movie that has added something (this is a bonus one) is Crazy, Rich Asians which came out on the 14thSeptember. In the time of writing this post, I haven’t seen the movie yet so didn’t want to confirm or deny whether the hype was well earned. I intended to write about Sierra Burgess is a Loser before seeing it, but glad I waited. So, go into the movies with an open mind. They might surprise you!
By Jordan Enaboifo