Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Ugh, Dave Franco Says He Wrote an “Elevated” Romantic Comedy. Can We Stop With This Already?

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In an interview Friday, Dave Franco talked about his directorial debut, The Rental, and mentioned having written a romcom with his wife, Alison Brie, and referred to it as an “elevated version of a romantic comedy.” Oy.

When the term “elevated horror” came into existence, it encapsulated a frustrating and dismissive part of criticism: the dismissal of certain genres as inherently of lesser artistic value. Horror, romance, science-fiction, and fantasy are genres that, despite producing some classic pieces of work, are often reduced to being inherently juvenile.

Let us look at Franco’s statement applying that concept to romantic comedies and break down why it’s so annoying:

We want to approach that film in a similar way that we did in this film, in the sense that that we want to make a smarter, more elevated version of a romantic comedy. We were inspired by classics like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Pretty Woman, which are all films that are grounded, where the acting is really strong and they are all shot like dramas, so they look good. We were just wondering why people don’t really approach the genre from that smarter point of view these days, and so that’s what we tried to accomplish with this script.

The language of this is so reductive. As someone who spent my weekend watching romantic comedies (Long Shot and Forgetting Sarah Marshall), the genre is plenty smart, they just have a balance between being funny and silly while delivering the romance. Nora Ephron’s brand of romantic comedy is iconic, and it’s amazing that a lot of the template we have for this standard of “elevation” is written by a woman, yet Franco just claims that the reason these stories are good is that they look like dramas—a supposedly more serious and more sophisticated genre.

Goddess forbid something has bright colors. In another profile in Variety, Franco again touched on the acting and aesthetics of the modern romantic comedy:

“It’s a genre that we both love, but when we looked at the landscape of rom-coms over the past decade, it feels like the bar is set really low,” he says. “There’s a trend where rom-coms have an overly bright aesthetic and the concepts are really silly and the acting isn’t grounded.”

When I was growing up, the problem I had with the romantic comedies of the 2000s was that they tended to dip into some sexist gender stereotypes—the Katherine Heigl features Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and of course The Ugly Truth.

But all genres go through ebbs and flows of quality.

Within the last decade, we have also gotten Crazy Rich AsiansThe Big SickSilver Linings Playbook (which I don’t even like), and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. They may not all be “grounded,” but at the same time, that’s not the point of the genre. When I think of Nora Ephron’s work or even Pretty Woman, I don’t think, “Wow those movies were really grounded in reality and shot more reminiscent of Casablanca than Bringing Up Baby.”

I think about the chemistry between the leads, the dialogue, and the super unrealistic expectations about love and romance they gave me.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to subvert and play with a genre, but adding the term “elevated” on top of it just reduces everything else to just fluff, and the reality is most media is fluff. Good acting and good cinematography doesn’t just belong to drama.

(via The Playlist, image: MGM)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.