When Nora Ephron died last year, I wrote on whether her iconic brand of the romantic comedy would ever be able to continue. It turns out, despite so many imitations of the Ephron style, we aren't seeing a new "When Harry Met Sally" or "Sleepless in Seattle" of late. The romantic comedy still has its moments, though, even if the stories are starting to hit on the side of extreme fantasy or harsh reality in order to maintain some credibility with more astute audiences.
All you need to see is 2011's "Midnight in Paris" from Woody Allen to see a throwback to the above Ephron magic, even if it had to be bathed in magic realism for logic. Jump forward to 2013 and the slate of upcoming romantic comedies look fairly mild in comparison. But there's one new constant that's blended into the worlds of the romantic drama and comedy: Supernatural romances.
The "Twilight" franchise obviously set off a whole new barrage of romantic movies that now feature romantic interest in ghosts, zombies, and even more vampires if you go by Jim Jarmusch's upcoming "Only Lovers Left Alive." While obvious in why those are popular, it says a lot about us as a population when we're not quite as interested in romantic tales about ordinary people. Although that may be expanded upon this April through Terrence Malick and his "To the Wonder."
If you think Ben Affleck deserved accolades for "Argo", wait until the divisive comments start for his starring role in Malick's new film. There, we see an ordinary man who falls in love with a foreign woman, then later falls for another woman he once knew from his hometown. Along the way, a layer of spirituality is added to the mix on how it affects the above relationships.
No, this isn't a Judd Apatow sex comedy. And while it likely won't be copied, it reminds audiences that the romantic film had plenty other places to go other than devolving. The Malick film, however, may not have been necessary if not for the fact the common man romantic movie delved into impulsiveness rather than focusing on the relationship side of things.
Let's hand it to Malick for taking on the more complicated questions of love and how it's sometimes not always capable of being demonstrated to one person for life. That's quite a leap from the supernatural romances dominating movie theaters lately. Even "Twilight" was about deep commitment to one person, save most of that due to a strong psychological pull of women loving dangerous men.
Out of the potpourri, the romantic film still has its crux: Someone is finding the one true person to love for life. The question is whether we'll ever see the common person romantic film again as Nora Ephron espoused within all the saucy chatter on sex. It may explain why so many still look at 1957's "An Affair to Remember" as the ultimate Valentine's Day film to watch that celebrates somewhat ordinary people falling in love in romantic settings.
In that regard, it gives possible proof to a middle class demographic being ignored while the tweens adore the supernatural romances and the sophisticates assimilate "To the Wonder." But that's nothing unusual as we see the middle class become squeezed financially in real life and perhaps now in romantic movies.