Romantic comedies rise again this summer
After last year’s slump, major studios once more reviving genre with five big releases
LOS ANGELES: Summer is always full of action and superhero flicks, but this year a once dormant yet utterly adored genre is coming back in a big way: the romantic comedy.
After a 2017 without any from a major studio, this summer is proving to be a rebirth for this lost Hollywood staple with five notable releases, including “Crazy Rich Asians” and a “Mamma Mia!” sequel. The reasons for the genre’s decline are many.
A post-recession focus on international audiences, franchises and superheroes have helped to push rom-coms off the studios’ priority list.
“They didn’t reflect the way that society was changing. They were all about white, straight couples. They fell back on the conventions that define the genre,” said Erin Carlson, author of “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy.” “People just got tired of them.”
A death, of sorts, was necessary for the genre to rise again with a new set of voices. It didn’t hurt that “The Big Sick” made a splash at the box office and went on to get a screenwriting Oscar nomination.
“[‘The Big Sick’] showed that people still want a good rom-com at the multiplex, but they want one that pushes the genre forward in new, interesting ways that reflect real life today, not tired tropes of yesterday,” Carlson said.
“Set It Up,” a Netflix release out Friday, is perhaps the biggest throwback of the upcoming films.
It is about people with actual jobs that consume their lives instead of playing a glamorous backdrop to whatever romantic exploits the movie dictates. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell star as assistants who decide to set up their miserable and difficult bosses, played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs.
“We met with a lot of people who really liked the script but so many people would say, ‘oh it’s not right for our platform,’ or ‘it’s not right for our slate,’” said “Set It Up” director Claire Scanlon.
That all changed in a meeting with Netflix, when executive Matt Brodlie agreed to make it in the room – he said yes in January and they were shooting by May. Netflix has also released a few other romantic comedies this year including “Ibiza,” “When We First Met” and “The Kissing Booth.”
It’s not just streaming platforms re-embracing the genre - the big studios are too. Universal has “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” coming July 20, with many of the original cast as well as Cher and Andy Garcia. And Warner Bros. is releasing the adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s popular novel “Crazy Rich Asians” on Aug. 15.
Nina Jacobson, who produced the adaptation, saw an opportunity in the story about a Chinese American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s parents, adding a touch of universal themes to a mainstream American movie.
The independent realm, which has been keeping rom-coms alive for some time, also has a few boundarypushing releases on the schedule, both about people in their early middle age finding love.
The Sundance charmer “Juliet, Naked,” based on the Nick Hornby novel and starring Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd and Ethan Hawke, comes out Aug. 17, followed by “Destination Wedding,” which boasts a ’90s dream cast in Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves who star as single wedding guests.
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” is in theaters on July 20.