Ro­man­tic come­dies rise again this sum­mer

Af­ter last year’s slump, ma­jor stu­dios once more re­viv­ing genre with five big releases

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Lind­sey Bahr

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.

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