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July 18, 2009

Can a New Breed of Indie Romcoms Save this Summer?


In an upcoming review of the movie Adam, I write, "This has been a surprising summer for a number of reasons, one of which is how dreadfully dull most of the big popcorn films have been. The other is the extraordinary ability of a handful of tiny, independent films to redeem the season utterly. These films, from Away We Go to (500) Days of Summer and now Adam, are the antidote to the summer blight, delivering smart, hilarious, moving and cosmically life-affirming stories."

According to my latest copy of "Entertainment Weekly," they would seem to agree.

In an article titled "Quirky Love," Christine Spines, while not specifically addressing the injection of romantic indies into summer fare, nonetheless highlights a recent and upcoming crop of independent, offbeat romantic comedies "taking aim at Hollywood's long love affair with cliches."

These films are being hailed for their realistic portrayals of love--not some cotton candy version of romance, but an honest evaluation of love as something messy, awkward, complex and requiring lots of work.

Spine's piece compares these comedies (in which she also includes the upcoming quasi-documentary Paper Moon) as films that harken back to the John Hughes movies of the 1980s--movies full of romantic angst, children who've lived through divorce, and couples endowed with an active skepticism of marriage.

But that, while tragic on some level, is at least honest. And it is connecting with audiences, if not necessarily studio heads.

"The problem," Spines writes, "is that the nascent little genre hasn't produced enough breakout hits like Juno to persuade the studios to truly rethink their ways. As a result, funny, complex romances are still a tough sell in Hollywood."

I haven't enjoyed any movie this year more than (500) Days of Summer. But then, I suppose I'm the demographic they're aiming for. Demographic or not, anyone who has spent any amount of time in a serious, long term, adult relationship knows that Hollywood is hardly honest when it comes to portrayals of authentic romance. So perhaps that's why this summer's batch of romantic comedies (and romantic tragedies) is so hitting home with me and so many others.

Honestly, after all, is always the best policy, even in Hollywood.


Agreed! The big popcorn movies have been dull. I guess movie makers have noticed you don't need a plot or especially good acting to make money. Just have everything blow up.