Love at first sight can be thrilling, but it can very very inconvenient when it happens to a bride who is walking down the aisle at the time. Especially if the loved-at-first-sight object of affection is another woman.
Rachel (Piper Perabo) is about to get married to Heck (Matthew Goode). But then she sees Luce (Lena Headey), the florist, and the connection is immediate and irreversible. And so we get the usual do-si-do until everyone lives happily ever after.
Romantic comedies take place between the meet (usually “cute”) and the happily ever after.
In between, the movie’s job is to get us rooting for the couple while it comes up with entertaining ways to keep them apart long enough for us to finish our popcorn and well enough that we feel that they’ve earned that happy ending.
Two traditional rom-com set-ups are immediate conflict (Bringing Up Baby, where a character summarizes the meta-theme of romantic comedies: “The love impulse in men frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.”) and what I call the “boy who cried wolf” theme, where someone tells a lie and gets deeper and deeper, afraid to tell the truth to the trusting soul he/she now adores.
The first catgory (The African Queen, My Fair Lady, It Happened One Night, Moonstruck, When Harry Met Sally) depicts the sparks and the chemistry while the second (Some Like it Hot, Roman Holiday, Guys and Dolls) is a metaphor for the conflicts we feel as we reach for intimacy and authenticity but resist the vulnerability. Some set-ups, like The Taming of the Shrew combine the two.
In dramas, too, there has to be something keeping the couple apart. We often see the barriers of family (West Side Story, Slpendor in the Grass) or history (Casablanca, The English Patient). But romantic comedies are usually about overcoming initial dislike or becoming more honest.
This film’s trendy twist is that the heroine leaves the man she thought she loved for the female florist who decorated her wedding. But the real departure is not the gender of the loved one — it is the violation of the “almost” rule of comedy. Brides are supposed to run away just before the “I now pronounce.” In this film, she goes through with the wedding, one of several reasons that keep it from achieving the spirit of lightness and possibility that are essential for any romantic comedy, no matter what the gender of the couple. Despite some clever dialogue and the sympathy it creates for its characters, the movie’s essential mis-handling of its tone keeps it from working. The problem is not the same-sex romance; it is the disconnect between the lightness of atmosphere and the seriousness of a heart-breaking betrayal. If the movie is going to be named for a bubble-gummy 1960’s pop song, it had better stay just at the “almost” edge. Once this one goes over, giving us a groom who does not deserve to be treated this way, the movie just can’t recover.
Parents should know that the subject of this movie is a previously heterosexual woman who falls in love with another woman. There are sexual references and non-explicit situations, including same-sex kisses and references to watching porn (with some spicy titles) and to a man who likes sleeping with lots of women and propositions many of them. All of this is played for humor. Characters use some strong and crude language. There are references to depression and some unpleasant family situations. Characters drink alcohol.
Families who watch this movie should talk about what the parents of the characters most wanted for their children.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually.