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Editors Pick: Rom Coms that are actually good

Words: George Voronov, Craig Connolly & Dylan Murphy.

February is Love Month on District and we’re exploring the highs and lows of relationships and discussing love in its many forms. Ahead of Valentine’s Day we put our heads together and dug out our favourite rom coms so you don’t disappoint your partner (again) in lockdown.

1

About Time

Let’s not muck about, this is a Richard Curtis romantic comedy. So, what does that mean? It means that we are guaranteed a movie that is stuffed to the gills with earnest British people doing earnest, wholesome, and occasionally very funny things. Oh, it also guarantees the presence of an eminently bangable Bill Nighy.

On its face, About Time, is a high-concept rom-com about an awkward Cornish chap (Domhnall Gleeson) who discovers he can travel backwards in time. He then uses his newfound power to enter into a relationship with his love-interest (Rachel McAdams). What makes About Time stand out though is that it is actually very different to the movie you are imagining based off of that description.

The beauty of romantic comedies is in the formula. All the way from When Harry Met Sally onwards we’ve witnessed endless iterations on the classic three-part structure. There’s the meet-cute, the fuck-up, and the last minute heroic gesture to win back a jilted lover. Often, the romantic comedies that end up leaving the biggest mark are the ones that acknowledge the structure. They play to it, but pivot away at just the right moment. They manipulate our expectations and tickle us in places we didn’t know we had.
Ultimately, what this movie is trying to say is that we don’t need magical powers to have a fulfilling life. Instead, meaning is to be found in all the wonderfully ordinary moments. Turns out Richard Curtis basically made a Zen film, who would have thunk it? 

Is it a little bit on-the-nose in it’s message? Maybe. Does that take away from how good the movie is? Absolutely not. This is an absolutely wonderful watch and a perfect antidote to what I have always found to be the bleakest month. Stick it on, have a laugh, have a cry, call your parents, and tell them you love them very much.

– George Voronov, Creative Director

2

Plus One

I would like to take this opportunity to preface my entry by saying that I am the exact type of person that needs a list like this. As someone who couldn’t sleep for a week after watching Liam Neeson’s incredibly un-scary (and 12RA rated) ‘The Haunting’, I would still rather watch 800 hours of actually scary horror films than watch 15 minutes of any formulaic, gag-inducing romantic comedy that some lazy studio writer has spewed up between reading their horoscope and shouting a torrent of abuse at their PA.

So to my amazement it would appear that there’s more to romantic comedy life than hunky (and very braindead) heartthrobs phoning in their performance alongside whichever en vogue Twentysomething can get themselves into as mild a perilous situation as possible.

Step forward Plus One, a 2019 film that sees Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid’s Alice and Ben go so far into the friendzone that they decide to escort each other to the seemingly hundreds of weddings they’ve both been invited to (popular guys!). 

Neither Maya or Jack would fall into the category of hunky heartthrob or peril-magnet siren (sorry) which adds an element of realism and charm that helps push the whole film along. Their chemistry is flawless from start to finish and before you start shaking your pitchforks at me, I’m aware there is a very trope-laden element to this whereby two friends become more than friends and the complications that inevitably arise after that but it is a romantic comedy after all, what do you want to do – leave a wedding and destroy the Deathstar?

What sets Plus One apart from the mountains of streamable romantic shite you have at your fingertips is the refreshing dialogue and subtle portrayal of intimate moments between friends that not only keep your attention but will have you yearning for a Plus One Two: Love Harder sequel!

Steam Plus One on Netflix now. 

Craig Connolly, Director

3

Punch-Drunk Love

If ‘Uncut Gems’ is the steak dinner main course in an evening of aggressively anxiety-inducing Adam Sandler cinema, then ‘Punch Drunk Love’ is the more easily digestible entree.

Sandler stars as Barry Egan, a hapless single twenty-something entrepreneur selling novelty bullshit that nobody wants who gets relentlessly bullied by his seven sisters before falling madly in love with one of their friends.

It’s a role that perfectly showcases Sandler’s natural ability to simultaneously make us laugh as a larger-than-life caricature, whilst also being deeply relatable. The kinda movie that a Carhartt beanie adorned man would proclaim to you as “a REAL rom-com” before exhaling a mixture of weed-smoke and the scent of Red-Stripe into your face.

While it is both beautifully shot and acted, that’s not to say it’s just trite hipster fare. That wondrous feeling of being swept off your feet by a new relationship, wanting to fly away with them and leave the worries of your old life behind, is depicted here with an earnest awkwardness that’s impossible not to be charmed by.

The action is also accentuated perfectly by the soundtrack from Jon Brion, which dances between sincere strings and erratic percussion, creating an almost surreal comedy vibe. An old-school romance with a screw loose, Punch Drunk Love is a real uncut gem in the rough.

Dylan Murphy, Head of Music and Culture