A rigid little genre

Romantic comedies have been around since films began – one could argue the famous primordial film The Kiss (1896) essentially cut to the chase and had boy getting girl hard on the lips with some giggling – so perhaps it’s unfair to regard the genre with some cynicism.

The rom-com (a moniker I’ve never liked myself) is for the most part an enduring staple on theatre screens, but more so on rental shelves, where it sometimes flourishes and earns dividends for rental shops. Each month brings forth a Two Weeks Notice (2002) – a prime example of banal comedy with paint-by-numbers plotting that rented like gangbusters, and defied the critics not because it’s a classic, but because it’s easily digestible and inoffensive.

Even the term ‘chick flick’ is somewhat genderless now, because every one at some point will watch a romantic comedy because its formula is tied and true: whether its Hitch, Gabriela, Wedding Crashers, or whatever’s hot this month, the last act usually has the guy running to the girl, confessing his devotion after behaving like a colossal knob, a happy fadeout, and a chirpy (and utterly forgettable) song blasting over the end credits to help sell the disposable ‘music from and inspired by’ album.

(If you doubt the disposable nature of those albums, make sure to check out the film scores in delete bins, and you’ll find the lot mostly consists of song CDs no one wanted, and never will.)

The same formulaic template in which boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl remains in Michael Samonek’s twist on the genre, Table for Three (Anchor Bay/Starz), which kind of wobbles as a dark comedy by introducing an annoying couple into the life of a recently dumped groom-to-be.

The film doesn’t quite work, and perhaps Samonek’s failure to reconfigure the genre shows how some rules can muck up a decent premise if they’re fully respected (Hitch) rather that satirized (Wedding Crashers) if not trashed with glee.



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