Comedy of Remarriage: Romcoms of Yesterday

These days, in Hollywood, the romantic comedy, aka “romcom,” is mostly about people hovering around the age of thirty who haven’t “hooked up” yet.

And since they tend to be written by men and women around that age, the hijinks can be pretty sophomoric, jejeune, and– well, from my POV, downright dull. The verbal interplay: nil.

Mack rented a particularly distressing example of this phenomenon the other night. My Best Friend’s Girl, starring Dane Cook, Kate Hudson and I think Jason Biggs. Dane Cook plays a man– or, rather, a “guy”– who is so obnoxious, rude and crude, his friends hire him to go out with a woman before they “hit on” her, so the woman will think they’re nice guys by comparison– or something. It was one of those high concept movies where the film-makers are in such a rush to put a twist on the premise that the original premise– far-fetched in the first place– gets sort of lost.

And I was squirming around so much watching Dane Cook play a misogynist jerk…he seemed a little too perfect for the part…and anyway I just couldn’t relate to any of it.

I wish Hollywood would make what used to be called “the comedy of remarriage” once in a while, for us adults.

The Palm Beach Story was an example. His Girl Friday. The Awful Truth.

Come to think of it, quite a few of them starred Cary Grant. Comedies of remarriage portrayed a couple who maybe lost the way, lost their spark, are feeling a little tempted, but through a series of misadventures wound up finding their way back to one another.

In The Awful Truth, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play a husband and wife who split up over mutual suspicions of infidelity. He starts dating a ditzy heiress; she allows herself to be squired around town by a not-all-that-bright oilman, played by Ralph Bellamy.

Ralph Bellamy so often played the decent-but-not-all-that-exciting guy, the guy who doesn’t quite get all the heroine’s jokes (in His Girl Friday in fact, it’s the exact same triangle: fast-talking Irene Dunne and fast-talking Cary Grant play a newspaper reporter and editor respectively, formerly married but now divorced: Dunne’s quitting the game to marry Ralph Bellamy who plays a boring…insurance guy, in this case: Cary Grant has to try to talk her back into his affections and also into working for him again; can you guess if he succeeds?) that in “how to write a romantic comedy” books the decent-but-boring guy, the guy the heroine wishes she were attracted to, but just…really…isn’t…is known as “the Bellamy.”

In The Awful Truth Grant and Dunne keep bumping into one another in restaurants and so forth. Dunne rolls her eyes at the little popsie Grant’s dating. He tortures her by running verbal circles around Ralph Bellamy and also going on long soliloquies about how much Dunne, the consummate Manhattanite, is going to love living in Oklahoma. “Tulsa, is it?” “Oh, no, it’s outside Tulsa,” the oilman responds.

Meanwhile, they are going to court to solve their custody battle over their dog, Mr. Smith.

The spend the entire movie slowly learning “the awful truth”: much as they can’t stand being together, being apart is even worse! So they get back together. (I hope that’s not a “spoiler”: it is like a 75-year-old movie.)

Comedies of remarriage were more popular 70 years ago, I think, because couples married younger and stayed together longer– and therefore were more likely to relate to the struggles of a couple facing similar issues onscreen.

But what about us modern couples? Can’t we get the odd “comedy of remarriage”? Hollywood, toss us a bone!

What about you, my bloggies? Wouldn’t you like to a modern “boy marries girl, boy loses girl, boy gets back together again with girl” type of story onscreen?