The Last Act

The only thing I know about this movie is the billboards, which look just like the above.  They are all over town, and every time I see one I think that the traditional romantic comedy industry is so burnt and anemic from trying to combat the new era of love in hoodies (key symptoms include Michael Cera, Zooey Deschanel, indie music, awkwardness, aching angst in surprisingly real domestic scenes) and the Apatowian bildungsroman/antibildungsroman (key symptoms include tender men, cock jokes, unfair worlds, big houses with children, and Paul Rudd) that it is finally surrendering.

This movie is the last wave of the white flag.  We give up, it says, we understand there can be no more He’s Just Not That Into Yous or The Wedding Planners.  The age has ended.   We will put our scripts written for Meg Ryan, Debra Messing and Diane Keaton away.  We will not try to make Jessica Alba funny anymore.  We get it, quirky women with quirky jobs in charming towns will no longer be on the last hunt for love before going home to eat alone.  Jennifer Anniston is the last holdover from this genre, perhaps because her public persona mimics the traditional romcom plot so well.  She is always this close to finding The One.  We know it’s gonna happen for her one of these days.

The sign of this surrender is the title.  The writers have given up trying to lure us with charm or nostalgia.  Instead of Sleepless in Seattle or Runaway Bride they are getting right to the point: Love Happens (aka It’s Over).  What you see is what you will get.  Anniston will rub noses with an equally tan man.  We are all gonna make it, one last time.

And then, the prop departments will rearrange:  bouquets of tulips and freshly sharpened pencils will give way to bongs, love letters to returned topless photos, less candles all around, and more T-shirts for everybody.  The shine is off the story a bit, and I think in general, we like it this way.  It is more of the kind of love story that High Fidelity foretold, now fully mainstream.

I am a fan of the deadening genre.  I will miss the high production and gold lighting, everything always crisp and catalog perfect– —You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, The Wedding Date— — but the veneer they demand isn’t going to hold up except as camp or in homage to the simple moments their conflicts always came to: blindness, revelation, running, adoration and reciprocation.

Are they now part of the romcom hall of fame, along with the Doris Day and Rock Hudson set, or am I wrong, and they are still alive and kissing?




3 Responses to The Last Act

  1. Wow! I miss going to the movies. I used to have a three-a-week habit. Went cold turkey when I arrived in an Italian town with no cinema, never mind no cinema in Original Language. Tell me, who is Aaron Eckhart?

  2. Millicent says:

    Hi Carminesuperiore! Aaron Eckhart is a really solid actor (most recently in The Dark Knight, where his character becomes Two-Face) who was also in a movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones in which they are both cooks. He is loving and tolerant, she is a careerist shrew. They end up together. It was an unhappy exercise in marrying the cooking-pleasures Ratatouille brought to the big screen with the romantic comedy of yore that CF is mourning here.

    I will miss the genre too. Freshly sharpened pencils with everything on the side and Julia Roberts’ perfect skin. I slavered over that skin in my zit-spattered days. I will miss Marisa Tomei’s now-unforgivable, then-unshakeable belief that she was destined to marry Damon Bradley. And her red dress. And the cosmic thing Love was in those movies anyway—something to believe in.

    I did see this poster, CF, and thought exactly what you thought. This is it, I said to myself. The saddest verb I’ve ever seen on a movie poster. Love doesn’t save us, it doesn’t take us up where we belong, it doesn’t make us act like we are fools or make the world go round. It, like shit, happens.

  3. Carla Fran says:

    I would also offer that Aaron Eckhart is the poor man’s Daniel Craig, if Daniel Craig was often cast as romantic teddy bear instead of muscled killer. Perhaps he’s akin to a cross between Daniel Craig and Bill Pullman, with a little Jeff Bridges thrown in for sass?

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