Romantic comedies get a bad rap, but just last year, releases like Warm Bodies, About Time, The Spectacular Now, Enough Said and Don Jon gave us fresh takes on the genre. It helps that I have a very broad definition of what could be a romantic comedy, but there’ll always be an audience for romcoms and I love a good one.
My selection of five great romantic comedies streaming on Netflix Canada this Valentine’s Day – followed by some anti-love picks for the cynics out there:
Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (a.k.a. Amelie)
Nothing short of magical, Amelie might just be the feel-good movie of life. Starring Audrey Tautou in the title role and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amelie tells the story of an imaginative and shy woman who finds love as she does small, good deeds around her community.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Two very different American friends (Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson) vacationing in Spain fall for the same smooth-talking, suave painter (Javier Bardem). Things get complicated when his unstable ex-wife has plans of her own (Penelope Cruz, a scene stealer in an Oscar-winning turn). One of my favourite post-2000 Woody Allen films.
Friends with Kids
Jennifer Westfeldt writes, directs and stars in Friends with Kids, about two friends (Westfeldt and Adam Scott) who decide to have a kid together without getting together because they’ve seen too many of their friends’ romantic relationships suffer because of children. Westfeldt and Scott are good, but it’s the supporting cast and peripheral couples that are most interesting: Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig’s Ben and Missy have awkward, public arguments, and Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd’s Leslie and Alex have all but given up on being romantic.
Sleepless in Seattle
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks would team up for the second time in Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail in 1998, just five years after Sleepless in Seattle, also an Ephron film. It’s an homage to An Affair to Remember (available on Netflix Canada) but also a hopelessly romantic and immensely likeable film about a woman who falls in love with a widower after his son shares his story on a call-in radio show. Fun supporting performances by Rosie O’Donnell and Rob Reiner, Ryan and Hanks’ characters’ BFFs.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The movie is perhaps best known for Ryan Gosling’s abs, but Crazy, Stupid, Love. had one of the best-assembled casts in a romcom that year: Emma Stone, Gosling, Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. Beyond the cast, who deliver fun performances, the writing is sharp and characters likeable.
Honourable mentions: Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Bridesmaids; 13 Going On 30.
As Julia Roberts’ character Barbara in August: Osage County put it: “Fuck love.” There are enough reasons in the movies below to convince you to stay single forever.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by Michel Gondry with a script by Charlie Kaufman and incredible performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine is a dark love story about a couple undergoing a procedure to erase each other from their memories after the relationship ends.
Waiting to Exhale
A gem directed by Forest Whitaker and based on the book by Terry McMillan, who adapts it for the screen herself, Waiting to Exhale also boasts a great R&B-filled soundtrack, produced by Babyface. Stars Whitney Houston, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, Gregory Hines and Wendell Pierce, but it’s Angela Bassett’s Bernie who steals the show.
Don’t cheat. Fatal Attraction is a six-time Oscar nominee, including a best-actress nod for Glenn Close, who lost to Cher in Moonstruck. Also stars Michael Douglas and Anne Archer.
A heart-breaking story about an aging couple’s bond in sickness and in health, ’til death do them part. Directed by Michael Haneke and starring Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant.
House of Cards – Season Two
Is there an icier marriage than Francis and Claire Underwood’s? Francis is unrivalled by anyone in Washington. We see him ruin people very easily and his cunningness is unmatched by any of his political foes. But I think Claire is his match. It’s a marriage of convenience for Francis: marry the only person smart, strong and shrewd enough to take you down. The second season of House of Cards premieres on Netflix on Valentine’s Day. Go nuts.
Honourable mentions: Before Midnight, First Wives’ Club (Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? How about three women?), Blue Valentine.