I miss Nora Ephron. She is one the few writers who can make me laugh out loud while reading, whether it's her revenge book Heartburn, or her essay "On Maintenance," and the struggle for women of a certain age to somewhat resemble a copy of their younger selves. She also wrote and directed amazing movies. Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and You've Got Mail are just a few. I miss her for so many other reasons: her strong love of New York, her hilarious honesty, and her ability to sustain a successful career, and try out a few different things at the same time. That's very inspiring for a 20-something like myself. I probably miss her the most though because of the apparent death of the romantic comedy movie in American film, which I feel like died with her when she passed away in 2012.
Is it just me or are there no good romantic comedies anymore? I don't mean 'good' in that the movie is bad, but still a guilty pleasure; I mean 'good' in the actual sense of the word. I was looking at the current releases in theaters, and there are very few romantic comedies being released these days. It's all superhero, true crime, existential crisis drama, and remakes. This might sound vapid to moan over the loss of good romantic comedies, but it's a wonderful genre that deserves good movies, dammit! The last American romantic comedy I saw and liked was Silver Linings Playbook, and that was about mental illness and came out four years ago. It's time for a change.
Nora Ephron perfected the romantic comedy. That's my humble opinion anyway. Here's how:
- She included the 'meet cute' (that moment in the movie when two characters meet each other, usually in humorous and/or awkward situations), but it wasn't the driving force of her movies, which I feel can open up a movie in so many great and unexpected ways. In When Harry Met Sally, Harry and Sally meet through a mutual friend, but they don't click. They don't see each other until some years later, and they become friends. Then they fall in love.
- The main characters don't like each other at first, which is quite typical of the genre, but Ephron created normal situations for why the two people don't like each other, not some sort of obviously contrived, too-out-there to be believably plot line. In Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan hears Tom Hanks on the radio, and that starts off her journey to find him.
I feel like commercial romantic comedies have been cited as vapid and superfluous by too many critics (which yes many of them are), so much so that no high-caliber writers seem to even attempt the genre anymore. Granted, maybe they don't want to even attempt to write one because Nora Ephron always wrote such incredible screen stories. Or the world is now too cynical and people falling in love is just not something people want to see.
Call this a cry for help to all decent screenwriters out there, or just the somewhat incoherent ramblings of a 20-something woman who is demanding a certain kind of entertainment. Whatever this is, I just know that I can't shake the feeling that the death of Nora Ephron brought down the death of incredible romantic comedy films. She really was the best though, and I may just possibly be holding any of the few romantic comedies that get released to very high standards.
To be fair though, there have been some great romantic comedies popping up on TV lately: The Mindy Project, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin and Please Like Me are my personal favorites. For those who like anti-romantic comedies, then you must check out You're the Worst.
Some of Ephron's best movies:
If anyone is interested in spending more time with Ephron (beyond her movies), definitely read her books and check out the latest HBO documentary made by her son, Jacob Bernstein.