Archives for posts with tag: Romantic Comedies

I can’t remember the exact phrasing she used because it was St. Patrick’s day. But my mind translated it to mean “You should stay away from me because I am crazy.” I’m sure I replied with something brilliant. I probably said “oh yeah?” Perfect.

I definitely should have quipped that she should watch out for me because I’m a bad boy. I’m dangerous.

I’ve been writing for five minutes and this post has already gotten out of control. If my life was a movie this scene could play out a number of ways.

In a comedy she would say “you should stay away from me because I’m trouble and crazy” and I’ll say “yeah I don’t want any part of that! Crazy girl…” SMASH CUT to wedding alter.

In a drama she would tell me to stay away and I will find this irresistable and charming. I’ll reply with something suave such as “tell that to all the other guys, I’m not listening to it”. (not my best effort… thankfully it did not play out as a drama) and then instead of smash cut its a fade out to black, white text explaining time has elapsed, and then we would be in the midst of a realistically shitty relationship.

A dramedy would play out differently. I don’t know how it would turn out. I don’t really want to find out either. Gotta live my life like a light-hearted rom-com not some sort of mumblecore movie with realistic dialogue and genuine consequences. EFF that.

TALES FROM THE WEIGHTROOM

So I have been trying to regain strength in my legs and have been focusing extremely hard on knees out and full ROM for squats. That is the context you need.

Went to the weightroom today and watched this meathead overload the squat rack with weight and proceed to do half squats with his knees caving in during every single rep. Before the set he was bragging to his friend that he once maxed out at 450. But this was only 315. So after the set (after I finished cringing and wincing) I said to him “your knees were caving in,” to which he replied “yeah, they do that.”

That’s so perfect. They do that. They suuuuuure do.

Knees cave in.

“His ACL popped!”

“Yeah, they do that.”

THAT DOESN’T MEAN ITS GOOD, BUD! I wasn’t complimenting your knee caving in talents.

So, that’s the last time I speak up in the gym.

I suppose one of the original purposes of this blog was to document how I feel after I eat or drink certain things. Or how it effects my training or health. I think the example I gave was Jagerbombs. This anecdote fits that criteria.

I went to a party Saturday that was a mix of Americans and international people. At one point we were admiring a Brazilian liquor bottle and eventually we gave it a whiff. Smelled like death. Poison! It had a lobster on the label. What does that even mean!? Naturally, this did not prevent me from accepting someone’s offer to make me a cocktail.

So this dude starts muddling lime wedges into ice and then pours the liquor. And pours. And pours. Then he takes one of those 5 pound bags of sugar and just turns it upside down and dumps it. And dumps. And dumps. Not into a vat. Not into a tumbler. But into individual solo ups (not your Red Solo Cup party cups but the smaller cocktail solo cups). Then he muddled/stirred some more.

I watched him pour a bag of granulated sugar into fermented sugar cane liquor and at no point did I think this might be a bad decision.

Long story short, I suffered a fate worse than death on Sunday. A crippling, tormenting, entire day center of my forehead migraine, and non-stop am I going to throw up from the pain of this hangover, or not, feeling.

Not sure where I was going with that. But I will leave with you one piece of advice. Avoid liquors that have pictures of crustaceans on the bottle.

Recently I have a had a friend ask me for advice about how to pursue a guy she is interested in and other general dating/courting/texting advice. Every single time she asks me what to do I want to write back “Just watch He’s Just Not That Into You more,” before realizing that would be a pretty jerkish response.

So instead I just quote the movie.

Still can’t figure out why anyone would solicit advice from me on this subject. Definitely talk to more qualified people.

I mean I can help you text girls or guys but this really should be a sink or swim skill. I will offer advice as a friend but I really should offer a caveat with it. You are talking to someone that thought it was a good idea to text ‘did you have to?’ wait for a response and then text ‘did you have to let it linger.” For absolutely no reason at all.

/did I retread that joke? Couldn’t think of a more blatant example of poor form texting.

Any other liquors you can think of that make you suffer a fate worse than death? Anyone respond to friends entirely in movie titles? “Why won’t he text me?” “He’s just not that into you.” “How’d last night go?” “Failure to launch.”

Since I pretty much only get hits when I write about romantic comedies (specifically, when I write about ‘jack nicholson rom coms’), I did a little bit of ‘research’ this week. I watched Friends With Benefits (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis) and No Strings Attached(Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman). These were the rom-com Dante’s Peak/Volcano or Deep Impact/Armageddon of 2011.

Friends With Benefits Gross: $55,802,754 (USA)

No Strings Attached Gross: $70,662,220 (USA)

Friends With Benefits was the better movie of the two. They are similar in only one way- a guy and girl trying to maintain an entirely sexual relationship. However each movie sets this conceit up in different ways.

Friends With Benefits explores this relationship by way of two very likable people that seem to have been dicked over by boyfriends and girlfriends in the past and they are disinterested in being hurt in a relationship.

No Strings Attached is just Natalie Portman being a bitch seemingly because that’s what she is. There was nothing likable about her character. And there was nothing likable about a man being needy around her and falling for someone that treats him like shit. She never explained why she didn’t want a real relationship.

I’m not really interested in examining why No Strings Attached made more money. It was a winter release and Friends with Benefits was a summer release. Maybe it was a first move advantage and that the market for fuck-buddy comedies had already dried up by summer. There is also significant competition during summer releases and the less a movie makes initially can limit how many screens it will play on in future weeks.

I’m also not defending Friends With Benefits. If they wanted to MAKE GOLD then they should have adhered to a few rules. And I don’t think that means making a movie about 2 people that just want to fuck around.

HOWEVER…

In terms of an audience deriving some pleasure from watching these movies its clear why Friends With Benefits provides value from cinema escapism. There is the fantasy of being a successful indie blogger (hey…. that could be your boy!) who gets a lucrative job offer in the big city and the only person he has met is an attractive (and vaguely middle eastern) Mila Kunis who is sharp, funny, and can keep his ego in check.

Friends With Benefits is a slightly raunchy version of most rom-coms these days. It hits the main plot points by having them meet, hang out a lot, eventually conflict, and then the male lead needs to make a public romantic gesture to win the female lead back. Only it also has Justin Timberlake attempting to urinate with a boner. While following this formula it also makes fun of rom-com standards featuring a movie inside a movie (starring Jason Segal and Rashida Jones.. I totes would see that fake movie).

But its certainly not real.

No Strings Attached is much more real. And it is terrible because of that.

In real life a guy will be attracted to a terrible woman because she looks good and went to a good school and has a good job. He will do everything he can think of to distinguish himself from other men by being charming, buying gifts, and being nice. But a girl like that doesn’t want a nice guy. These kinds of girls are attracted to assholes.

I really wish the movie would have ended with Ashton Kutcher’s character learning that lesson. Instead he falls into the trap of answering her phone calls and agreeing to be her date to her sisters wedding.

In the words of Mila Kunis’ character:

Jamie: why don’t they ever a make a movie about what happens after they kiss?

Dylan: They do it’s called porn

The real movie after they kiss is one called ‘Closer’. If you go after a girl like the one in No Strings Attached then I guarantee you will fall for her shit over and over and eventually hate her (or yourself).

There is a whole industry of film and books about guys falling for girls that want them to like them and never date anyone else but the girl will only like another. Twilight and Hunger Games come to mind. Team Jacob vs Team Edward. Team Peeta vs Team Gale.

If you say you are on Team Jacob then you are a mark. You are a mark for the oldest con on the planet. The con where a woman will never let you close but will go crazy if you start to catch feelings for someone else.

I don’t know when girls find the time to practice this art form but it seems like they have all become masters. Girls have the ability to do just enough or say just enough to keep you close and out of the arms of their competition. But they will keep you just far enough away so they can be with the men they really want (ex. Edward Cullen).

Always be Edward. Never let yourself be Jacob (especially if you catch feelings for an infant. so weird).

I don’t know why girls give me shit for my movie viewing habits but I think its because they only notice that I watch romantic comedies and they tune out when I talk about other movies. Whatever.

If this was a Miller Lite commercial then I would have already lost my man card. I drink Guinness anyway.

In the last post: Economist’s Perspective: Guide to Making Money While Making Romantic Comedies Part 1 we looked at successful romantic comedies measured by US box office results and began to formulate ideas that capitalize on elements gleaned from that list. Stars are most important. More specifically, we need stars that have appeared in popular romantic comedies previously. Additionally the stakes need to be high in the story. We want there to be pressure to get married not pressure to date. If there is a break-up it better be devastating. This can make or break the story.

We settled on Reese Witherspoon to anchor the film. She has appeared twice on the list and is the favorite to take over Julia Roberts’ crown as the most bankable rom-com star. But do all her movies generate revenue? Actually… no. Her biggest resume blemish in recent past is the film How Do You Know.

How Do You Know has the rom-com stars (Reese, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, Tony Shaloub Owen Wilson) and its director (James Brooks) appeared on our list with As Good As It Gets, however, the movie breaks our second rule of success. The stakes are wayyyyyy too low. Instead of deciding who Reese should be marrying she’s trying to decide who she wants to be dating. One lead is comfortable with a fuck buddy and the other just wants a shot. The climax is an emotional story about play-doh that gives him a shot. A shot to date her. Wheres the risk in that? Wheres the pressure? Seriously, how do you NOT know that this would fail?!

Building a rom-com around the premise of hoping characters get together to date or become boyfriend and girlfriend instead of an EPIC break-up or awesome wedding is the equivalent of making a Rocky movie about staying in half decent shape and then when you want there to be a championship fight its actually a street fight. Wait… you mean that’s the plot of Rocky 5? How did it go? BADLY!? Toldya.

So let’s not make the How Do You Know mistake. We need bold characters that are ready to make life-altering changes. Reese Witherspoon in a movie with high stakes. What else can we cherrypick from popular romantic comedies? Since we are doubling down on the wedding theme we should look at wedding movies in general as well as successful romantic comedies.

Knocked Up (not a wedding movie but useful in understanding how to use Katherine Heigl)

27 Dresses (clearly a wedding movie but not particularly successful)

Knocked Up appears on our list but it’s the only Katherine Heigl movie. She has been in every kind of romantic comedy you can think of but outside of Knocked Up they have not sold well. Well what worked in Knocked Up then? For starters its a story told from both the Male and Female perspective. The two leads are split up for half the movie and you see Seth Rogen coping in his own way (with his immature friends) and Katherine Heigl coping with her (slightly more mature) sister and brother-in-law. She wasn’t forced to carry the movie as a lead and both men and women could identify with the leads.

What else worked? Well the stakes were extremely high. A bomb was ticking. For 9 months. The pregnancy premise was used brilliantly as a means to resolve their relationship happily but there was also a fear that the shit could hit the fan and they would have a dysfunctional split household at the end.

So they use 2 perspectives with meaningful, pressure-is-on, get it together or your kid will be fucked-up stakes.

So how do we take a movie like 27 Dresses and give it the Knocked Up treatments? Don’t make it all about Katherine Heigl. Populate the movie with identifiable leading men who get a chance to share their perspective.

So we want Reese Witherspoon telling one side of a story and ummmm let’s say Matthew McConaghey telling the other. Now we need stakes. We need these 2 to get together by the end and it has to be a wedding. Before that, however, we are going to load this with other weddings. So we are ripping off 27 Dresses, Wedding Crashers, and Four Weddings and a Funeral and we are going to have Reese Witherspoon as the always the bridesmaid character who goes to her sisters wedding (Kate Hudson), and her best friends wedding (ummmm. Anne Hathaway will do). And she meets a couple guys at these weddings (Matthew Mcconaghey and someone else.. let’s go with opposite personality/body type Charlie Day).

This plot affords the writers to build in plenty of wedding hijinx, toasts, dance scenes, post-reception romps, hangovers etc. But it also sets up two important elements. We see Reese going through a quarter life crisis as she is a bridesmaid forever and you see this through her perspective. She feels pressure to get married so she doesn’t end up a spinster. And you see the male perspective through Matthew McConaghey and Charlie Day (or whoever we put in the supporting funny role) as they charm and go through women but are ready to settle down. The male side is a blatant rip-off of Wedding Crashers. It’s been fun but now I’m in love.

But what makes this slightly different than these other similar movies will be the secondary plot-line. We need an epic break-up at the end to juxtapose with our sweetheart leads finding love and getting married at the end. We need to see the first wedding/marriage crash and burn by the end. We will see this through both gender perspectives. The male (actor only needs to look good and have have so-so Q rating) will be a dog who hits on anything and eventually gets caught in the climax (of the movie… get your mind out of the gutter).

Climax/ending is a Las Vegas one year anniversary trip that for some reason the whole original wedding party attends. Original groom is caught cheating. As well as Reese and Matt elope at a cheesy chapel. Vegas scenes always work. The charm of this will be that they both assume the other person is drunk as they are revealing how much they actually feel for each other. They get married. Matt gets pulled over driving back to casino. Blows a .00 bac and Reese realizes she really did find her love. WE CAN WORK WITH THIS.

Beginning is some weddings.

Middle is the different directions the marriages seem to be going. Maybe Reese dates Matt but there is a mix-up and then she dates Charlie.

End is one big break-up and one sweet, secretly sober, eloping ceremony in Vegas. This movie writes itself.

Between vegas hijinx, wedding hijinx, high stakes, stars, quirky side characters, and bitchy best friends, we are only a couple of recognizable actors as parents away from your next surprising BLOCKBUSTER.

Call it Wedding Season and start printing tickets. The key is to balance who is carrying the weight of the movie but make the weight heavy.

About Reese Witherspoon’s next movie This Means War, it will probably do well but I think it is more of a genre mash-up which is a lot harder to predict but has a good chance to top all of the movies on our list. And she is definitely a spy too. 50% chance it makes more than $100M.

My paycheck says I am economist. But I also watch a lot of movies, monitor box office results, and fantasize about casting terrible movie ideas in my head (coming to a theater next fall: The Moving Boyfriend). Today we will combine all four of those skillsets to identify successful romantic comedies (using US box office results), analyze what contributed to their success, and attempt to build a rom-com film treatment from the ground up.

Rom-coms do not dominate the all-time box office results but that doesn’t mean a light-hearted comedy about 2 knuckleheads falling in love cannot make a shit ton of money. For the purpose of this case study we are going with the ‘if you have to ask’ criteria for what is considered a rom-com. This means that not every chick-flick is a romantic comedy and if you have to ask if it really is a romantic comedy then it probably is not. There are a few examples I left out because they seemed more like a love story with comic relief instead of a comedy with a love story. And I may have missed a few because there really are not very many that show up in the top 200 movies and I scrolled fast looking for names. Also I am not adjusting any of these for inflation because I am a lazy economist (assume older movies represent more 2011 dollars but whether they actually would make more nowadays is debatable).

73. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) $241,437,427

137. What Women Want (2000) $182,805,123

148. Pretty Woman (1990) $178,406,268

149. Hitch (2005/I) $177,575,142

186. The Proposal (2009/I) $163,947,053

211. Jerry Maguire (1996) $153,620,822 (I debated including this one. Seems more like a love story with comic relief)

215. Runaway Bride (1999) $152,149,590

219. Knocked Up (2007) $148,734,225 (not what people normally think of as a rom-com but that’s really what it is)

225. As Good as It Gets (1997) $147,637,474 (makes me laugh enough to count)

313. Sweet Home Alabama (2002) $127,214,072

318. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) $126,805,112

320. Sleepless in Seattle (1993) $126,670,704

331. Something’s Gotta Give (2003) $124,590,960

345. 50 First Dates (2004) $120,776,832

350. Four Christmases (2008) $120,136,047

363. The Break-Up (2006) $118,683,135

380. Notting Hill (1999) $116,006,080

383. You’ve Got Mail (1998) $115,731,542

397. It’s Complicated (2009) $112,703,470

STAR POWER

A couple things stand out immediately. 4 of the top 15-20 grossing rom-coms had Julia Roberts. 2 had Tom Hanks. 2 Had Jack Nicholson. 2 had Reese Witherspoon. 2 Had Helen Hunt. And then there are stars leading everyone of these movies with the notable exception of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (more on that in a second), and to a lesser extent Knocked Up. Seriously. Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Richard Gere (also twice), Will Smith, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan (also twice), Adam Sandler, Vince Vaughn, Hugh Grant, Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep.

If your goal is to make money then you need a star (seems obvious right?). But you actually need a star FROM THIS LIST. And you really should throw all the money you have at Julia Roberts.

The list of male stars also skews older. I have a feeling this has something to do with who actually goes to see these movies (cough.. older women.. cough).

But having a battle-tested rom-com star will not absolutely guarantee box office gold (examples: Larry Crowne which had both Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts… doesn’t this break my rule?).

THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING AT STAKE

In the same way that Alfred Hitchcock understand that it is far more suspenseful and thrilling to show a bomb with a 5 minutes timer than to merely show an explosion, there must be something at stake in the romantic comedy. Tagline for Larry Crowne “After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going back to college.” Uhh, yeah. There’s no bomb about to go off. Compare that with Pretty Woman “A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love.” Think of the stakes! He’s breaking all socially acceptable norms for love! Replace highly successful corporate raider played by Richard Gere with loser going back to college played by Tom Hanks. No wonder it tanked. Stakes are low.

The Proposal: woman will be deported and man will lose job, lie to family and government, fall in love, get engaged, get married. There is a bomb ticking. And the stakes must be raised until it ends in a wedding.

Notting Hill in many ways is Pretty Woman with roles reversed.

IT DOESN’T HURT TO HAVE IT INVOLVE A WEDDING… OR 2… OR 4 (and a funeral)

This is probably a no-brainer but its worth pointing out. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, obvi! The Proposal. Runaway Bride. My Best Friend’s Wedding. Four Christmases may have been a Christmas movie but the central theme is about how when they see their friends and family in love they realize its not good enough just to be boyfriend and girlfriend.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past would have been a lot more successful as Ghosts of Wives Past… and even more successful as Ghosts of Husbands Past (obviously starring Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Tom Hanks, and Will Smith and Jack Nicholson).

continued tomorrow in part 2.

SO WHAT MOVIE DO WE WANT TO MAKE?

Well it has to have a star. Personally I think the Julia Roberts’ and Tom Hanks’ are past their primes and we must identify stars that could potentially lead similar careers and guide us to box office fantasy gold.

While I personally think Anne Hathaway will eventually become the next Julia Roberts, she hasn’t been a world-beater at the box office. And people will return to the theater to see Actresses in familiar roles. Reese Witherspoon is the logical choice.

Reese Witherspoon appears twice on the list and is still young. Vince Vaughn is also young and appears twice on the list. But they hate each other so that ain’t happening. Will Smith is a no-brainer but I bet he makes me change my script. NO DICE, BIG WILLY! Besides, we need to pair her with an older gentlemen. Someone that older women like. Daniel Craig? Pierce Brosnan? Sean Connery Liam Neeson?

We need a wedding. And if I have my way, we need 2 weddings. One at the beginning and one at the end. Double the chance for box office success! Seems simple enough. Tomorrow we will flesh out the FORMULAIC PLOT. Also we will look at Reese Witherspoon’s next movie “This Means War” to see how it compares with the list and make a prediction on how it will fare at the box office.