25 years ago, in March 1990, one of the most popular and successful romcoms hit screens across the world, taking in over $11m domestically during its opening weekend and a worldwide lifetime gross of just under $465m.
Classed as Julia Roberts’ first headlining role, the world fell for ‘tart with a heart’ Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman. Roberts took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress and received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress while co-star Richard Gere was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor.
Together with Meg Ryan, Roberts dominated romcoms during the 1990s, with Ryan starring in such films as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail and Roberts following up her Pretty Woman success with My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill and Runaway Bride.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Today, Katherine Heigl, Reese Witherspoon and Rachel McAdams come to mind as being the most prolific romcom actresses, though Witherspoon has successfully diversified, gaining critical success for roles in Walk the Line and Wild.
In terms of actors, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum all have a few romcoms under their belt, though they are now pursuing more comedic, action or dramatic roles.
Story-wise, multiple romance novels by American author Nicholas Sparks have been adapted for film, including The Notebook, Dear John and The Lucky One. These romantic dramas are what McAdams has leaned towards, with the likes of the aforementioned The Notebook adaptation, The Vow and The Time Traveller’s Wife.
LOST THEIR CHARM
As explained previously, fantasy, sci fi and action are my favourite genres, and it’s very rare that I’ll watch a romcom or romantic drama. However, Pretty Woman remains one of the few romcoms that I’ll repeatedly watch; Ryan’s Sleepless in Seattle is another.
While friends around me were going to see 2004’s The Notebook, 16-year-old me refrained, not seeing it until my first year of university a couple of years later. While my housemate cried at the end, like countless people before her, I remained unmoved, as it had become quite obvious to me early on what the outcome was going to be.
I can’t place my finger on it exactly but I feel that romcoms have lost their charm. McAdams has the same winning smile as Roberts and Witherspoon has a similar style as Ryan, but the films they appear in are forgettable.
I’m not anti-romance but I do prefer watching things that stretch your imagination and leave you with lots to think about rather than a warm-and-fuzzy feeling.
Perhaps it’s due to technological advances that the charm has gone.
In Sleepless in Seattle, Ryan’s Annie falls for Tom Hanks’ Sam after hearing him speak on a radio show. She then sends a letter suggesting that they meet up. In today’s society, while Annie might have heard Sam on the radio, she would probably have searched for him online, found him on Facebook or some other social media and then sent him a private message.
That is if she liked the look of his profile, of course.
Today’s rules of dating have changed. It’s not so much the chance meeting seen in Serendipity, though my boyfriend and I did meet in this organic fashion, but more the swipe left/swipe right style of Tinder and other fast-paced mediums.
You can get to know an online version of a person and make a judgement on their personality before physically meeting them.
What do you think? Do you think that today’s romcoms are comparable to my Nineties classics?