Olivia Silk reports on the resurgence of romantic comedies in 2018
For hopeless romantics, scenes from well-known rom-coms are engraved on our cinematic memories.
Thanks to their feel-good nature, charm, comedy and even corniness, there is an irresistible quality that makes these films so enjoyable.
While many people believed the genre would never regain the peaks it hit in the 1990s and 2000s, fans have relished the new and diverse romantic comedies released in 2018.
The films have made a big comeback this year, in large part due to Netflix’s “Summer of Love” season. According to Variety, more than 80 million Netflix subscribers watched films in this season.
One highlight was the teen movie To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. The novel-turned-movie – rated 96 per cent on the Rotten Tomatoes website – follows the rollercoaster ride of Korean-American schoolgirl Lara Jean Covey as five of her love letters are mysteriously sent out.
Netflix has called it one of its “most viewed original films ever with strong repeat viewing”, and last week rom-com fans rejoiced as the company announced a sequel was in the works.
One fan, Nathe Carlos, says To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is his favourite rom-com of all time.
“What makes the film great is that it’s oddly realistic. It delivers a sense [that you could find] … anyone at any place. [That’s what] … makes it so relatable, and hence why it was a hit.”
Buzzfeed Australia’s editor-at-large, Jenna Guillaume, believes there is still a huge hunger for the genre. For her, it was thrilling to have it fed in 2018.
“[This year] definitely saw a resurgence of the rom-com,” she says. “The key components of the biggest hits were things that have been sorely lacking in the genre for a while: great storytelling and inclusivity.
“We saw movies that played with the traditional conventions of the rom-com, but expanded the meaning of what it is, and, most importantly, who gets to be in it.
“That’s something I hope to see more of in the future – it’s really the only way the rom-com genre will be able to survive and thrive.”
Guillaume thinks the “dark and stressful” real world has fuelled a desire for feel-good films.
“People want to escape into a world that is low-stakes, positive and heart-warming. They want to get lost in a love story, to forget about their troubles for 90 minutes, and to look for the best and happiest parts of humanity.”
One of the first rom-coms of 2018 was Love, Simon, released in March. The first major studio film on a gay teen romance, it follows the story of Simon Spier and his discovery of love, friendship and identity.
The film received high praise and was compared to the rom-coms made by John Hughes.
For avid rom-com fan Evie Morris, it was the pick of 2018.
“It’s the story everyone needed to see on the big screen because it tackled such big things in a way that was delicate and empowering at the same time,” she says.
“It marks a shift in films being made for our generation [in that it reflects] … on real-time issues, and lands smack bang in the middle of the emotional landscape we’re all trying to navigate.
“Without exaggeration, no movie has made me cry that much and root so hard for the happiness of the characters. It conquers classics like The Notebook.”
Laura Bennett, a movie critic who writes for The Connect Press website, says the success of rom-coms hinges on their overall aim.
“If the goal of the film-maker is to make audiences laugh, think a little and leave feeling entertained, then the rom-com genre has done a great job this year,” she says.
Box office and online streaming figures attest to their success in 2018. Bennett says: “They’ve also upped the stakes with titles like Love, Simon, Crazy Rich Asians and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. They inspire conversations that have a cultural impact.”
She says that, compared to the action blockbusters on the market, rom-coms don’t particularly stand out visually – yet they make up for that in their storytelling.
“Rom-coms may not match the ‘event-style’ cinema of the next Marvel or Star Wars movie at the moment, but what they’re feeding into the entertainment landscape is powerful. They have developed a new social conscience and level of diversity we’ve not seen before.
If How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or 27 Dresses reflects the stereotypical rom-com, a film like Crazy Rich Asians flies in the face of that.
“There’ll always be a love story at the centre, because that’s what audiences love about these movies, but we’re seeing those stories being told from different perspectives … by portraying a wider variety of voices on screen.”
Rom-com fan Ms Morris believes the movies have had to adjust to social changes in order to remain relevant.
“Love and dating are so much more accessible now, with apps and online forums,” she says.
“I am a single female in my 20s, currently dating in this weirdo world of technology, and it’s really difficult … I have a yearning for the old-school days of meeting someone organically.
“I turn to these movies for solace and hope, and, most importantly, comedy, because they can show me the best of both these new and old worlds.
“And I know I’m not alone in feeling these things. That’s why I think rom-coms have come back with a vengeance, because we need them now more than ever.”
Already, three rom-coms are scheduled for release in 2019, and others are in development.
Bennett says: “As long as people are attracted to love, there will always be a place for the rom-com. What will continue to develop, though, is the scope of characters being portrayed.
“Netflix has already had a huge impact on unearthing and allowing stories to come to light that would never have got a run with the limitations of traditional cinema and TV.
“There are niche audiences, both large and small, that they can tap into like never before.”