The Oddest Couple | 10 of the best Romcoms
Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen bring a contemporary spin to the classical romantic comedy in Long Shot.
Making people laugh isn't easy. Just look at the number of comedies that have been produced over the years that don't so much draw a laugh out of their audience as a collective groan. The romantic comedy is an even tougher gamble. The laugh quota has to remain high, but it also has to combine the drama of a personal relationship, convincing us that the people we see on screen could credibly get together. Amongst these films, the odd-couple set-up is a hard nut to crack. And it's one that Jonathan Levine's Long Shot succeeds with because of two key elements: the script and the right actors to play the romantically entangled leads.
Theron plays Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State, who is being groomed for the top job at the White House. She spots a familiar face at a function, who turns out to be unpredictable journalist Fred Flarsky (Rogen). She's slick, sophisticated and the ultimate insider; he's awkward and doesn't fit in. She also used to be his babysitter. Needing a speechwriter who understands her, Field decides to gives Flarsky a shot.
What Long Shot succeeds at is understanding the mechanics of the genre it's working it. The romantic comedy can play out in various ways, but to make it work, the conflict that drives both the story and the relationship forward has to produce sparks to keep us interested. They are generated by the difference in the character's social standing, background or professions. And it's something that American cinema in particular has perfected over a long period of time.
Hollywood pretty much set the template for the romantic comedy (although German filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch set it on its course in the 1920s), just as sound was making its way into cinemas across the country. Holiday (1930) was a perfect early example. It places a less wealthy protagonist in a relationship with a rich socialite. Both the comedy and drama draws from the differences in their backgrounds and how people react to them. A similar scenario was mined to brilliant effect by Frank Capra and Robert Riskin in It Happened One Night (1934). Claudette Colbert's rich heiress falls for Clark Gable's roving reporter, but not before sparks fly between them. Holiday was remade in 1938 by George Cukor. He found the perfect pairing in Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. In the same year, they starred in Bringing Up Baby, one of the great screwball comedies (films that generally tend to play out at a quicker speed and are as knockabout in their physicality as they are verbally dextrous) that also mines the romantic comedy to pitch perfect effect. This time, it finds a scientist being pursued by a young woman with an ulterior motive. It's a set-up that works so perfectly, it also appears in The Lady Eve (1941) and What's Up Doc (1972).
From Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder to Nora Ephron and Richard Curtis, the romantic comedy has proven resilient, entertaining audiences with the tale of two people attempting to make sense of their worlds in order to accommodate each other.
ROMANTIC COMEDIES – 10 OF THE BEST
It Happened One Night (1934)
Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable are brilliant and the film is worth watching for the Wall of Jericho scene – which has been referenced and remade in countless films.
The Lady Eve (1941)
Henry Fonda is the wealthy but socially inept scientist, Barbara Stanwyck the sophisticated con artist. It's one of Preston Sturges' finest films.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Gregory Peck is an American journalist working in Rome, Audrey Hepburn as a princess visiting the city who escapes for a day.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
A near perfect combination of romantic and screwball comedy, with the gangster and thriller genres thrown in for good measure by genius writer-director Billy Wilder.
What's Up Doc (1972)
Barbra Streisand is the perfect comedic foil to Ryan O'Neal's bumbling professor in this madcap chase movie.
The ultimate fish out of water movie, it made a star out of a young Tom Hanks, who would be so moving – and grown up – nine years later in Sleepless in Seattle.
The Tall Guy (1989)
He might be more famous for Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999) and Love Actually (2003), but Richard Curtis' first feature screenplay, detailing the relationship between an American actor and British nurse is still his funniest.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Nora Ephron's script is perfect, as is the cast, in Rob Reiner's paean to New York and falling in love.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Arguably the best Hollywood romantic comedy of the 1990s, Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman are great, but the film succeeds because the large ensemble cast all add to the film's richness.
Obvious Child (2014)
Giving a more urgent, contemporary spin on the modern romantic comedy, Jenny Slate is brilliant as a stand-up comedian reaching a major turning point in her life.
Long Shot is now available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema.