“I think this might be one of my favorite romantic comedies.”
My boyfriend is in full cozy mode on the couch, eating ice cream as we watch Ali Wong and Randall Park play the will they, won’t they? game in the new Netflix original film Always Be My Maybe. While he may have been slightly coerced into watching with me, we’re not even twenty minutes in and already he’s sold on the San Fransico-based, food-celebrating modern love story.
It’s not difficult to see why. While I came of age in the era of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson romances, there is no doubt in my mind that we are living in the renaissance of romcoms. Romantic storylines today don’t just mirror the classics, they far surpass them, all while leaving the viewer feeling that happy, mushy feeling we come to these films for.
Always Be My Maybe is the perfect example.
From where I’m sitting, there are three discernable reasons why romantic comedies today are so much better than they have ever been. To start, in the last year we’ve seen a boom in inclusivity and representation like we’ve never seen before. Crazy Rich Asians made more than $240 million dollars at the box office. Love Simon, To All the Boys I Loved Before, these are films we could never have dreamed of seeing even a few years ago. We are telling more love stories than ever before and, as romance has proven time and again, inclusivity is a very effective way to forge a path toward the future.
And that’s not all. Because modern-day romcoms also empower their heroines like they never used to do. Sure, the female lead always had some big newspaper job or advertising position which, as a writer and journalist, was never a probable career and she never did the work a woman in that profession would do. (Can we discuss how Kate Hudson works for a woman’s magazine and wants to be doing hard-hitting news? Then go do hard-hitting news?)
For years, there has been an insidious undercurrent in romantic comedies where the heroines weren’t quite taken seriously–which is how they were written. They were supposedly good at their jobs, though often shown otherwise, and many of the choices they made fell flat to how an actual human person, and not three owls in a trench coat, might behave when faced with the same issues.
Which brings me to my third point. Romcoms are smarter. Yes, we come to them for their guaranteed happy ending. It’s why we come to romance in the first place. We could go to action movies for the motorcycle chases, superhero movies for the inexplicable acrobatics and hot men in Lycra and comedies for the belly laughs. But while romcoms have always delivered that special HEA, it is now a more satisfying one. Gone are the days of a singular misconstrued conversation as the foundational plot. Gone are the days when simple communication can eliminate all barriers from the relationship.
Always Be My Maybe doesn’t cheat us out of those important conversations and those conversations don’t negate real complications facing the couple. In To All the Boys I Loved Before, we get to the root of what is holding our hero and heroine back, and it’s not each other. Love, Simon doesn’t pretend that everything is okay merely because he told the truth. It’s not. Life is more complicated than that. And these new, shiny, golden movies are coming to both respect and reflect that organic, natural way of finding love, even if we’re not celebrity chefs or billionaires.
This isn’t to throw shade at any of the classics. I am a diehard fan of every era of romcom. Give me Marilyn and Audrey, give me Meg and Molly and Robin. Give me Julia, Gwyneth, Cameron, and Drew. I love Kate Hudson and Mila Kunis and Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lopez. Are they perfect? No. And looking back now, some are generally problematic. But like romance, we take these stories within the time they were told. Each generation has brought something new to the table, a way of telling the classic love story like we have never seen it. And now it’s this generation’s turn.
If you haven’t yet seen Always Be My Maybe, I highly recommend it. As with the others on the list, it is smart, hilarious, adorable and also real. It is the film, representative of the latest iteration of the genre, that we deserve. I cannot wait to see what comes out next.