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Posts Tagged ‘romantic comedy’

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Made for TV rom-com, which is entirely predictable yet thoroughly enjoyable. Autumn Reeser plays Jaclyn Palmer, who is getting married to Peter (Antonio Cupo), but it’s clear that she has doubts about it, and his overbearing mother certainly doesn’t help. A few days before the wedding she meets a handsome stranger who turns out to be none other than Peter’s brother Max (Shawn Roberts).

The wedding day dawns…and then dawns again…and again…and again…this is basically Jaclyn’s Groundhog Day as every time she wakes up it’s the morning of her wedding day again. As she tries to work out what is happening she learns a little more about herself every day, and figures out what she is actually looking for in life.

If you don’t like romantic comedies, or you DO like to be surprised by your films, then this is not the movie for you! But if you occasionally just want something light, fluffy and to make you smile, then give it a whirl, you might love it.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Ron Oliver

Writer: Nancy Silvers

Main cast: Autumn Reeser, Antonio Cupo, Shawn Roberts, Ali Liebert

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with-this-ring

In this TV movie, three women attending their friend’s wedding on New Years Eve make a pact that by the same time next year, they will all be married – or at least engaged. Each of them has their own romance dilemma – Trista (Regina Hall) has just hooked up with her ex-boyfriend and everyone but her can see that she is too good for him; Viviane (Jill Scott) is still in love with her ex-boyfriend. They have a son together and she decides that if they can’t make it work out this year, then she is going to give up on him and find someone else; finally, there Amaya (Eve), who is involved with a married man and determined to get him and his wife to split.

I enjoyed the film, largely due to the charisma of the three leads (especially Hall and Scott). Yes, it’s predictable – or at least Trista’s story is – but on a Friday night after a busy week, a romantic comedy with some poignant scenes, is exactly what this viewer needed.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Writer: Nzingha Stewart

Main cast: Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve, Deion Sanders, Stephen Bishop, Jason George

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Sex and Death 101 stars a pre-The Mentalist (just – this came out the year before The Mentalist started) Simon Baker, as Roderick Blank, a man who is about to marry his girlfriend Fiona (Julie Bowen) and thinks that his life is just about perfect.  But then he receives a mysterious email, which lists all the women he’s slept with – with Fiona correctly occupying the number 29 slot – but then goes on to list lots more, totalling 101.  Not surprisingly he is somewhat shocked – who has sent the list?  How can he be going to have sex with more than 70 more women, when he is about to marry the woman he loves?!  Roderick’s obsession with the list starts to ruin his life, and pretty much all aspects of it.  Meanwhile, a woman (Winona Ryder) nicknamed Death Nell by the media, is going round murdering men who have treated women badly, and it looks as though Roderick and Nell’s paths are going to cross at some point.

I’m not entirely sure how to categorise this film.  It’s part sci-fi, part romantic comedy, part black comedy – there’s certainly a lot going on, and maybe a bit too much at times.  But….I actually really enjoyed it.  There were some VERY funny moments – and some very adult comedy –  as Roderick initially finds the list intriguing, but then finds that it’s taking over his life.  Simon Baker is wonderful at comedy, and keeps the audience on his side.  Roderick is sometimes lovely, and sometimes pretty damned obnoxious, but it’s difficult not to like him.  Winona Ryder gets surprisingly less screen time than you might expect, given that at the time, she was probably the most famous cast member.  She’s great in her role though – perfect for the part.  Robert Wisdom is great as the leader of a mysterious trio who are behind the list of names that was sent to Roderick, and Patton Oswalt gets a few funny line.  However, as far as the supporting cast goes, nobody betters Mindy Cohn as Roderick’s PA and friend Trixie.

The film got mainly negative reviews on release, and I can see why people might not like it – it sometimes seems as though it’s not quite sure what it’s trying to be, but I did really enjoy it.  A lot of this was because of the gorgeous Simon Baker; he’s a great lead, who for me, perfect for this kind of part, and as mentioned, the supporting cast were all great as well.

If you like quirky comedy, I’d recommend giving this a go.  It’s brash and colourful, and for my money, very entertaining.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Daniel Waters

Producers: Aaron Geller, Cary Brokaw, Elizabeth Zox Friendman, Jerry P. Jacobs, Greg Little

Writer: Daniel Waters

Main cast: Simon Baker, Winona Ryder, Robert Wisdom, Patton Oswalt, Mindy Cohn, Neil Flynn, Leslie Bibb

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Sabrina Fairchild (Julia Ormond) is the gawky daughter of the chauffeur to the wealthy Larrabee family, in Long Island.  For years, she has been secretly in love with youngest Larrabee son David (Greg Kinnear), but he doesn’t seem to notice her, instead choosing to drift from one woman to another.  Sabrina goes to Paris for two years to work for Vogue magazine, and when she gets back, David cannot even recognise the beautiful and sophisticated young woman.  But he is engaged to Elizabeth (Lauren Holly), with whose father’s company, David’s career driven brother Linus (Harrison Ford) hopes to effect a merger.  Linus is determined to keep Sabrina away from David – if David does not marry Elizabeth, the merger will not go ahead – so he starts spending time with Sabrina himself.  But then Linus finds his own feelings towards Sabrina starting to change.

This is an updated remake of the 1954 Billy Wilder film of the same name, which in turn was adapted from Samuel Taylor’s play.  Remakes are often met with derision, and remaking a film which was directed by the great Billy Wilder, and which starred three of the most loved film stars of the time – Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart – is no mean feat.  I loved the 1954 film, and really only wanted to see the 1995 version to see how it compared.  I’ll be honest – I expected to be disappointed.  I love Holden, I love Hepburn, and Sabrina (1954) was such a sparkly, romantic film.  So I was quite surprised by how much I actually did enjoy this remake.  True, Julia Ormond is no Audrey Hepburn, but Hepburn was in a class of her own.  Julia does a pretty good job of playing the titular character though.  Greg Kinnear played the part of David well, although again, he can’t compete with William Holden’s portrayal.  But Harrison Ford was wonderful as Linus.  I actually preferred him to Bogart (maybe because Bogart did not get on with his co-stars or his director in the original film, and Sabrina is not one of his better performances, with many people thinking that he was mis-cast).  Ford brings more depth to the role, and makes Linus sympathetic, even as he is plotting to save his proposed merger, at the expense of Sabrina’s feelings.

I did think it sagged slightly in the middle – after Sabrina returned from Paris and was met with amazement by David and everybody else at the Larrabee mansion, there seemed to be a period of not a lot happening – but overall it was entertaining enough, and the ending was satisfying, even though I knew what was coming.

Special mentions to Nancy Marchand as Maude Larrabee, the matriarch of the family, and Lauren Holly, as Elizabeth – David’s fiancee (who is probably too good for him), who both were excellent in their supporting roles.

Overall, this is a film worth seeing if you like romantic, old-fashioned comedy, or just want something easy going and undemanding to watch for a couple of hours.  I’d recommend it on it’s own merits, but if I absolutely had to pick between this version and the 1954 film, the 1954 film would still come out on top.

Year of release: 1995

Director: Sydney Pollack

Producers: Sydney Pollack, Lindsay Doran, Scott Rudin, Ronald L. Schwary

Writers: Samuel A. Taylor (play and earlier screenplay), Billy Wilder (earlier screenplay), Ernest Lehman (earlier screenplay), Barbara Benedek, David Rayfiel

Main cast: Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, Nancy Marchand, Lauren Holly, Angie Dickinson, Richard Crenna, Dana Ivey, John Wood

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Click here for my review of the 1954 adaptation.

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The same year that James Stewart and Kim Novak starred together in Hitchcock’s classic ‘Vertigo’, they also starred in this romantic comedy.  Kim Novak is Gillian Holroyd, a beautiful young woman who hates her publisher neighbour Shepherd Henderson’s (James Stewart) fiancee, so casts a spell to split them up.  But then Shepherd falls for Gillian, unaware that she is a witch.  Jack Lemmon also stars, as Gillian’s adorable warlock brother Nicky.

Although the storyline might be considered a bit corny, the stellar cast of Novak, Stewart and Lemmon, who are ably supported by Ernie Kovacs, as an author of books about witches, who is a bit too fond of bourbon (or whisky, or whatever else is on offer) and Elsa Lanchester as Gillian’s aunt Queenie, who is also a witch, raise the standard of this film.  Let’s be clear – the witches are above all endearing and definitely not frightening (nor are they intended to be!)  Lemmon is just adorable – but when isn’t he? – as Nicky, and Novak is, if you’ll excuse the expression, completely bewitching.  It’s hard not to imagine Shepherd falling for her with or without the use of witchcraft to move things along.

James Stewart pretty much stopped playing the romantic lead type role after this film, feeling that he was too old for it.  He was indeed 25 years older than Novak, but somehow I hardly seemed to notice – they had great chemistry together.  The story was amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny (the funniest parts were courtesy of Lemmon and Lanchester), and very sweet.  Special mention for Gillian’s familiar, the lovely cat Pyewacket (Novak ended up adopting the cat after filming was completed).  The ending is fairly predictable, but there are a few surprises in store along the way.

All in all, I would say that this is not the best film in the back catalogue of any of these actors, but it is an enjoyable and heartwarming story, and a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Richard Quine

Producer: Julian Blaustein

Writers: John Van Druten (play ‘Bell, Book and Candle), Daniel Taradash

Main cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Ernie Kovacs, Janice Rule

 

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This was Cary Grant’s penultimate film, before he retired from acting – and it shows that while he may have felt the time was coming when he should hang up his hat, he had certainly lost none of his charisma and screen presence. In this film, he plays against type as Walter Eckland, a slacker who is dragooned into living on an isolated island during WW2, from where he can report any signs of Japanese ships or planes. His life is shaken up with the arrival of schoolteacher Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron), who has been stranded on the island with a number of schoolgirls…

Cary Grant was a master at romantic comedies, and this is probably one of his best. I really liked Grant with a more scruffy unshaven look (he himself said that this role was the closest to what he was actually like in real life), and his performance here is spot on, and very funny. Leslie Caron is also great – she looks lovely and brings a lot of comedy to her role, although she always reminds me of Audrey Hepburn (and I actually think Audrey would have been wonderful in this role also).

The idea of two mis-matched people being thrown together is nothing new (see The African Queen and Heaven Knows Mr Allison, for two comparable films), and as this is a romantic comedy, you can probably guess where it’s going, although the ending is still a delightful surprise.

For my money, this is one of Cary Grant’s better films – I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would certainly recommend it!

Year of release: 1964

Director: Ralph Nelson

Producer: Robert Arthur

Writers: S. H. Barnett, Peter Stone, Frank Tarloff

Main cast: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard

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Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) is an amiable prizefighter, whose plane crashes, and his soul is plucked out of the aircraft by a messenger from the afterlife (whose job it is to collect the souls of the dead). When Joe ends up in the afterlife, it is discovered that he has been taken there 50 years too early; he would in fact have survived the crash. The head of operations in the great beyond -a kindly man named Mr Jordan (Claude Rains) says that Joe must be returned to earth, but there’s one problem – Joe’s body has been cremated. Mr Jordan lets Joe inhabit the body of a man named Farnsworth, who has been murdered by his wife and her lover. When Farnsworth ‘comes back to life’, his wife is most surprised! As Farnsworth, Joe falls for a young woman named Bette Logan, but she is unaware of his real identity.

This film was one of many released in the 40s, which looked at the issue of life after death, and it reminded me somewhat of A Matter Of Life and Death, which starred David Niven, and which explored similar themes. I actually prefered A Matter Of Life and Death, but that is not to say that Here comes Mr Jordan is not a great film. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite the fact that the storyline deals with death and murder, it is actually very funny in parts, and sweetly romantic in others.

The pacing is tight, and the whole film comes in at about an hour and a half, which means that it never gets dull. It is helped along by an excellent cast – as well as Montgomery, who is perfect as Pendleton, and Rains, who brings a calmness to his role which balances out the over-excitement of other characters, the over-zealous messenger who plucked Pendleton from the plane is played by Edward Everett Horton; the exchanges between the Messenger and Joe provide a lot of laughs. James Gleason is outstanding as Max Corkle, Joe’s former manager (both Gleason and Montgomery were nominated for Oscars for their roles).

Overall, I would highly recommend this film – it really is lovely, and packed with charm. Highly recommended!

Year of release: 1941

Director: Alexander Hall

Producer: Everett Riskin

Writers: Harry Segall (play:’Heaven Can Wait’), Sidney Buchman, Seton I. Miller

Main cast: Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains, James Gleason, Evelyn Keyes, Edward Everett Horton

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It Started in Naples is a 1960 romantic comedy, starring Clark Gable (it was his penultimate film, and the last of his films to be released during his lifetime) and a young Sophia Loren. Gable is Mike Hamilton, a lawyer from Philadelphia who has come to Naples to settle the estate of his deceased brother, who deserted his family ten years earlier. Upon arriving in Naples, Mike is stunned to discover that his brother had an eight year old son, who is currently being brought up by an aunt named Lucia (Loren). Mike dissaproves of Lucia’s bohemian upbringing of the boy Nando and thinks the boy would be better off brought up in America. However, he soon begins to fall for the beauty of the country, and the charms of Lucia…

I really enjoyed this film. Gable is terrific as Mike – some reviewers have said that the age difference between him and Loren spoiled the film, but as far as I could see, he definitely still had that twinkle in his eye, and I thought there was definite chemistry between them (although they did not get on terribly well off-screen).

Sophia Loren was – well! Talk about va-va-voom! She looked absolutely stunning, and played the part of Lucia brilliantly. Although she was flirty and fun-loving, it was easy to see that she genuinely cared about Nando.

The little boy himself was utterly charming – it’s no wonder that Mike also grows to love him.

The setting of the film is perfect – it was filmed on location in Italy, and is mainly set on the Isle of Capri, which looked beautiful, and definitely made me want to visit there (I wonder if it is as breath-taking over 50 years later?).

Plenty of humour is to be found in this film; the scenes that Gable played for laughs worked very well indeed, and it is really a perfect film to kick back and relax with. Definitely recommended.

Year of release: 1960

Director: Melville Shavelson

Writers: Michael Pertwee, Jack Davies, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Main cast: Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, Marietto

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This is a fun, if dated, romantic comedy from 1948, starring Cary Grant, and Betsy Drake (in her debut film). The two stars went on to get married afterwards, which probably explains why there was so much chemistry between them here.

Drake plays Anabel Sims, a young woman whose sole ambition in life is to get married. When she bumps into Doctor Madison Brown (Grant) she immediately decides that he is the one for her, and pursues him relentlessly in an attempt to get him to fall for her. Complications arise when she tries to make Brown jealous, and comical misunderstandings ensue.

I did enjoy this film – partly because I simply enjoy watching Cary Grant act, and especially in films such as this, where he can use his considerable comic talents. There’s no doubt however, that the film is very firmly rooted in a different age. The idea that Anabel’s only hope is to land a husband is outdated, and further, the idea that a woman will (and should) use subterfuge, trickery and manipulation to land the man of her dreams is seen as a good thing! Additionally, her plans to net the Doctor involve following his every move (she does indeed follow him day and night, and learns everything about him, including not only where he eats and socialises, but also what his hobbies are, and even what colour his underwear is!) All of this might sit uncomfortably with some viewers, and certainly Anabel’s behaviour would be classed as stalking and entirely unacceptable in the current day. With all that in mind, it’s therefore necessary to take the film at face value and not read too much into it.

It’s actually very funny in parts. Betsy Drake is perfect as Anabel, and it’s a shame that she didn’t go on to have a more illustrious career – she certainly seems to have had the talent for it. Grant of course is terrific, and I loved the character of Madison, who tries to resist Anabel’s aggressive pursuit. I won’t reveal the ending, but it’s a romantic comedy – and Cary Grant is the hero – so you can probably guess what happens. There is a neat little twist though, which reveals Anabel’s ingenuity!

Probably not a film for everyone then, and not Grant’s best by some fair way – but still enjoyable and worth a watch.

Year of release: 1948

Director: Don Hartman

Writers: Stephen Morehouse Avery, Eleanor Harris, Don Hartman

Main cast: Cary Grant, Betsy Drake, Franchot Tone, Diana Lynn

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This little gem of a movie was made in 1934, and is often considered to be the first screwball comedy.  It’s also ranked at number 3 of the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest romantic comedies.  However, neither of the two stars, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, wanted to do the film, and several stars turned down the female lead.  (Colbert only agreed to do it on the basis that her salary was doubled and that it would only entail four weeks work.)  However, it was the first movie to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay – although Colbert was apparently so convinced that Bette Davis would win best actress for Of Human Bondage, that she (Colbert) did not even attend the Oscars ceremony.  When it was announced that she had won, she had to be tracked down at a train station and brought to the ceremony to accept the award.  She gave her acceptance speech in her traveling clothes!

But onto the movie itself…Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a wealthy heiress whose father disapproves of her recent marriage.  In a bid to escape her father’s clutches, Ellie runs away from Miami to get to New York and her new husband.  Along the way she meets newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Gable) who helps her get to New York on condition that she gives him an exclusive piece for the paper he works for.  Initially antagonistic towards each other, they soon develop a friendship and then their feelings start to turn to something more…

This really is a lovely movie, which transcends the passage of time.  Of course it looks dated now, but that only adds to its charm.  Gable is roguish, cavalier and very dashing, whereas Colbert plays the part of the pampered heiress with a vulnerable side extremely well.  There are many hilarious moments in the film – the hitchhiking scene in particular is especially funny.

(N.B.: If the plotline sounds similar to that of Roman Holiday, which came two decades later, there are a few similarities, but the comparisons which have been drawn between the two movies are largely unwarranted.  Whereas Roman Holiday focuses more on the romance aspect, It Happened One Night is more comedy focussed.  I would highly recommend both movies.)

Year of release: 1943

Director: Frank Capra

Writers: Robert Riskin, Samuel Hopkins Adams

Main cast: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly

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