Romantic Comedy: The BRWC Review.
Romantic comedies have remained as an equally celebrated and criticized staple of mainstream cinema, with the genre offering a plethora of superficial happy endings for its thinly-constructed characters. In Elizabeth Sankey’s bluntly-titled documentary Romantic Comedy, the filmmaker captures the genre’s unique, long-standing complications throughout its existence, crafting an admirable thesis despite its notable limitations in scope.
With Romantic Comedy, Sankey takes a view at her own relationship with the genre, growing up as an earnest fan of the films before discovering their noticeable blemishes. The doc accomplishes its dissection of the tried and true formula by mixing critical perspectives with footage of the genre’s most noteworthy entries.
Even in its slim 78-minute running time, Sankey and her well-curated contributors tackle a plethora of the romantic comedies’ problematic tendencies. By taking aim at celebrated offerings like Garden State and Jerry Maguire, Sankey effectively breaks down the systematic disillusionment that has been present in modern mainstream romantic comedies, films that are primary byproducts of white-male figureheads whims and desires.
Whether it’s criticizing the lack of diversity, constant objectification of women, or superficiality of romantic bonds, Romantic Comedy tackles its social themes with earnest appraisals. Sankey thankfully doesn’t turn this feature into an all-out hit piece on the genre’s noteworthy problems, rather analyzing how these tropes work with audiences in their enjoyment of confectionary movie-going fantasies that promote emotional staples like love and connection. The addition of Summer Camp’s SoCal original music is also a welcomed touch, cleverly breaking down romantic comedies’ hopes and expectations with an effective wistful tone.
While Sankey can be applauded for her earnestly subjective approach to her experiences with romantic comedies, that singular perspective limits this documentary’s potential. Ripe subject matter like the devolution of female authorship throughout cinema’s history is merely brushed over, with the doc lacking the depth and research to convey why enduring systematic problems still exist today.
There’s also a major lack of appreciation towards the genre’s substantial independent offerings, which have operated as an authentic counterbalance to superficiality present in mainstream cinema. There isn’t much that Romantic Comedy teaches that isn’t already well-regarded, with its lack of technical flash failing to elevate familiar moments (it’s bizarre to see the speakers, including actor Jessica Barden, not credited for their remarks).
Sankey’s offering may operate better as an impassioned video-essay rather than an objective expose, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t merit in Romantic Comedy’s well-tuned observation about Hollywood’s fantastical staple.
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