The Rom-Com Renaissance by Joker Mag, the home of the underdog
Credit-Joker Mag Illustration

The romantic comedy movie genre sputtered through a period of irrelevance for much of the past decade.  Studios aren’t eager to produce such movies that can aptly be described as the film industry’s middle class. 

What I mean by this is that these movies will generate decent box office revenue, but will never approach the levels that superhero films accrue.

Also, while a well-constructed rom-com may garner greater critical acclaim than a mediocre blockbuster picture, it will likely be overlooked during awards season. 

Rom-coms are not cash cows like action movie franchises and they are apparently not Oscar-worthy like prestige dramas.  Hence, these films occupy residency in the industry’s middle class.

If you prefer a sports analogy, think of rom-coms as the Charlotte Hornets. Too good to tank but never good enough to legitimately contend for a championship.  A team like the Hornets needs a savior, whether this occurs via incredible lottery luck or landing a franchise-altering free agent. 

The rom-com found its savior in Netflix this past year.

Glamour magazine's collage of Netflix's revival of the Rom-Com genre. The Rom-Com Renaissance is real. And it's happening.
Credit-Glamour/Netflix

The streaming giant revitalized the genre by financing and distributing many successful love stories during its appropriately-named Summer of Love.  While it deserves much of the credit for awakening this dormant film category, Netflix wasn’t the sole reason the rom-com returned.

The Rom-Com Renaissance (RomComaissance?) was also the result of talented directors offering fresh perspectives on romance, excellent writers creating fun stories and memorable dialogue, and tremendous acting from a new generation of stars.

Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell were relatively unknown prior to Set It Up. Now I imagine the paparazzi bombards both of them whenever they’re in public.

Lana Condor and Noah Centineo were both revelatory in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before; Centineo may become the new face of the genre given his meteoric rise in popularity.  Constance Wu was outstanding as the lead in Crazy Rich Asians and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.

Speaking of Crazy Rich Asians, it’s well-documented that this was a historic movie.  The film’s cultural importance will rightfully be the primary component of its’ enduring legacy.

It’s also a beautifully-shot and deftly-acted movie (nominated for Best Ensemble Cast at the SAG Awards) with plenty of humor and heart.

Set It Up, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Crazy Rich Asians are three movies that epitomize the rom-com’s return to prominence.  These films and several others gave beleaguered rom-com enthusiasts reasons to believe in love and the power of cinema once again.

While there are many enjoyable options released in 2018, I’ve highlighted my five favorites from the year.

My Parameters

The cover of A Lot Like Love, a true romantic comedy film. The Rom-Com Renaissance is reviving this film style in a big way. And people are loving it!
Credit-Touchstone Pictures

First, I’m only selecting movies that I perceive as tried and true rom-coms.  The story should center around two characters either falling in love or rekindling a stale relationship. 

Our romantic heroes’ love must follow a journey and overcome obstacles throughout the course of the movie.  Ultimately, it must end happily (or open-ended with a foreseeable path to a happy ending) for the romantic leads.

Private Life is one of my favorite movies of 2018 and made me laugh out loud multiple times. But I view it as a dramedy with hints of romance, so it isn’t included in my list.

To further clarify, some examples from previous years that are personal rom-com favorites are Crazy, Stupid Love, A Lot Like Love, and raunchy but heartwarming films like Trainwreck, Girls Trip, and Knocked Up.

Without further ado, it’s time for me to summon the courage to profess my feelings for my five favorite rom-coms of 2018. 

Before doing so, I’d like to shout out one honorable mention that helped revitalize the genre:

Alex Strangelove (Netflix) is a funny, stylish, and occasionally raunchy coming-of-age LGBTQ rom-com about a young man discovering his sexuality.  This movie, written and directed by Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins), contains balanced storytelling in how it blends emotional tenderness and humor.

Ultimately, Alex’s introspective journey to self-acceptance includes a catalog of classic rom-com moments that will make you cheer from your couch.  It would certainly crack my top-five in most years.

Be on the look out for the first movie breakdown of the Rom-Com Renaissance. Any predictions? Comment below!

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stevenbellano@comcast.net
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good article, i agree