Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by: Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, Katie Silberman
Starring: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam DeVine, Priyanka Chopra
The romantic comedy genre has its tropes that everyone knows and loves. It starts with the initial attraction, the flourishing beginnings, the big fight, and it concludes with the couple coming together and falling in love. A simple formula but as audience members, we don’t care because of its effectiveness. Isn’t it Romantic builds its foundation on the idea of making fun of romantic comedy tropes. Unfortunately, while attempting this feat the film falls into the same trappings it tries to tear down.
Natalie (Rebel Wilson) makes it clear that she does not care for the romantic comedy genre. She believes that the stories lack depth and they became a catalyst for her low self-esteem. Whenever anyone brings up romantic comedies, she makes sure to make her feelings known about why they have no worth in the world. One night, after she gets mugged, she wakes up in a world where it seems like she has been transported into a romantic comedy. The only way to escape this nightmare forces her to do what every romantic comedy preaches, find one’s true love.
Even with its faults, this film is quite funny because the rom-com world established appears so unrealistic that it could only be in a romantic comedy. New York has all this bright vibrancy with everyone breaking into dancing numbers in the street. Natalie gets back home and has an immense apartment despite not having a vastly different job, which jabs at rom-coms where a journalist can afford a multi-level apartment. Every part of its attempts to make fun of the genre work because the writers knew the genre well enough The best joke certainly occurred when Natalie attempts to sleep with her billionaire client played by Liam Hemsworth. They are about to get started and it fast forwards to the next morning and every time she tries to start again it keeps flashing to the following morning. These sequences make Natalie realizes that she has entered a PG-13 rom-com and that explicit sexual content would not be allowed.
While the film succeeds in its deconstruction of the genre, it does not stick the landing with its story. I guess I was expecting a bit more from the film. The first half had plenty of humor but the way it concluded disappointed me. It seems they left all of the best jokes in that first half of the story, leaving nothing truly remarkable for arguably the most important part of the story. It leads me to Rebel Wilson, who I think excels when as a scene-stealing side character, but her comedic style got rather tiring about halfway through the film. It reminds me of The Office where Ed Helms’s Andy Bernard excelled in doses, but once he became one of the main characters, it exposed his character of being rather tedious and not that interesting. Rebel tends to rely on the same jokes over and over again, which left me waiting for the film to end rather than enjoying what should be a good conclusion.
One other thing that did I enjoy from the film was showing the dark side of romantic comedies. While movies portray them as beautiful, they rarely show what happens after the big swell of emotion that brings them together in the end. Not all relationships endure and many relationships in rom-coms would definitely not last more than a few months. That particular detail did add to the deconstruction of the genre, and worth pointing out.
Overall, this film lands in the middle for me. Forgive me for using a sports saying, but it became a tale of two halves. The film started extremely well, executing its clever jokes efficiently but it ended with a thud because it ran out of things to make fun of and had to end in the exact same way as the genre it mocked.