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Romantic Comedy

Kathryn Grayson in Seven Sweethearts (1942), a musical romantic comedy

filmThe basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two characters, usually a man
and a woman, meet, part ways due to an argument or other obstacle, then
ultimately reunite. Sometimes the two leads meet and become involved initially,
then must confront challenges to their union. Sometimes they are hesitant to
become romantically involved because they believe that they do not like each
other, because one of them already has a partner, or because of social
pressures. However, the screenwriters leave clues that suggest that the
characters are, in fact, attracted to each other and that they would be a good
love match. The protagonists often separate or seek time apart to sort out their
feelings or deal with the external obstacles to their being together.

While the two protagonists are separated, one or both of them usually realizes
that they are ideal for each other, or that they are in love with each other. Then,
after one of the two makes some spectacular effort (sometimes called the grand
gesture) to find the other person and declare their love, or through an
astonishing coincidental encounter, the two meet again. Then, perhaps with
some comic friction or awkwardness, they declare their love for each other and
the film ends happily. The couple does not, however, have to marry, or live
together "happily ever after". The ending of a romantic comedy is meant to
affirm the primary importance of the love relationship in its protagonists' lives,
even if they physically separate in the end (e.g. Shakespeare in Love, Roman

There are many variations on this basic plotline. Sometimes, instead of the two
lead characters ending up in each other's arms, another love match will be made
between one of the principal characters and a secondary character (e.g., My Best
Friend's Wedding and My Super Ex-Girlfriend). Alternatively, the film may be a
rumination on the impossibility of love, as in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall. The
basic format of a romantic comedy film can be found in much earlier sources,
such as Shakespeare plays like Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer
Night's Dream.

Some comedy films, such as Knocked Up, combine themes of romantic comedies
and stoner comedies, creating a subgenre that appeals to both men and women.
Often known as "bromance", such films usually use sexual elements which bring
the two characters together. Films in this genre include American Pie 2 and even
Wedding Crashers.


Genre: Romantic-Comedy (hybrid)

Non-Linear Narrative film does not follow chronological order.

Unlike many non-linear narratives this narrative shows no just 1, but all 4 different non-
linear techniques.


The film is an example of an anachronic non-linear narrative as the story is told as a

series of flashbacks and flash-forwards. Rather than being told from the start of the
relationship to the end of the relationship, the audience is presented with snippets of
different days and times in the relationship of Tom and Summer.

Episodic Narrative

The film is an example of an episodic non-linear narrative as each segment that the
audience is presented with is given a title depicting the number of a day in the
relationship between the Tom and Summer. Each sequence within the film is shown as a
separate episode, although all episodes deal with the relationship between the

Split Screen
There is a point within the film in the episode dealing with Summers engagement party
to her future husband, after she has left Tom, when split-screen narrative has been used.
The filmmakers have split the screen into two to show differing versions of the same
event. When Tom walks up to the rooftop party.

Forking Path

The engagement party scene is an example of forking path narrative because it shows
two separate realities two different ways in which events could have progressed. In one
of the screens we see Tom happily integrated with the party-goers and rekindling his
romance with Summer. In the other screen the audience sees the reality of the situation,
Tom alone and uncomfortable snubbed by Summer before realising that she is engaged
to be married.

Claude Levi-Strauss Theory of Binary Oppositions

Fairytale love vs Real love (Toms idealised view of the relationship compared to the
reality of the relationship)

Commitment vs Casual relationships (Toms desire to commit to Summer versus her

preference for a no-strings attached relationship)

Boys vs Girls (male perspective versus female perspective, especially with regards to


Target Audience: 16-30 year old females, white, middle-class, professionals.

Why? Romantic T comedy mainly appeals to this social group. The main characters in the
film are of a similar age to the audience, they are white and middle class. Females are
viewed as more interested in romantic story lines, being more sensitive and refined than
the average male viewer who is more action/effects led than plot led. Females of this age
can relate to the lifestyle/feelings/predicament of the main female protagonist and the
male protagonist. The fact that the film plays with the traditional conventions of the rom-
com genre would also appeal to this audience the female takes on the role of the male
and vice-versa with the male character being the heart-broken one.

Secondary Audience: 16-30 year old males, white, middle-class, professionals.

Why? This audience can relate to the main male protagonist, theyre of a similar age and
have a similar lifestyle. The fact that the film plays with the traditional conventions of the
rom-com genre would also appeal to this audience.

Readings differential decoding:

Preferred Reading: Marc Webb, the movies director, has stated that for him the
meaning of the film is about coming of age. Its about that phase in your life when you
have to leave behind your childish ideas of life and love and get to grips with the reality
of the situation. Through watching the film the audience is expected to realise that there
is no such thing as the fairy-tale love that children believe in, that love is like everything
else in life: something that must be negotiated and subject to concessions and
redefinitions. As Toms little sister tells him: You know...just cause some cutegirl likes the same
bizarro music you do doesnt make her the one.

Negotiated Reading: A negotiated reading would qualify the preferred reading by

saying that true love does exist in some form, but that it may not take the form of love at
first sight. That once you get to know someone a bit better, then you will realise whether
or not they are meant for you.

Oppositional Reading: Rather than being about growing up and realising that love is
not a childishly simple idea, an oppositional reading of the film is that it actually
reinforced the concept of true love. While Tom is searching for the one and believes he
has found it with Summer, we realise that this is not the case as he is not her soul-mate.
The film actually reinforces the idea of true love as it is the character of summer, the
antagonist, who throughout the film constantly challenges Toms, the protagonists, views
of true love and rejects all forms of commitment that comes to accept the idea of true
love. At the end of the film Summer falls in complete and utter love with her husband-to-
be and tells Tom that he was right about soul mates and true love: And I kept thinking
to myself Holy shit. Tom was right. You were right about all of itIt just wasnt me you were right


500 Days is an incredibly admirable film in several ways. It imitates the whimsical style
and mood of the typical quirky romantic comedy while simultaneously questioning and
subverting it.

As the film exposes our cultural myths about romance by slowly crushing Tom (the
definition of a hopeless romantic) it also says a lot about representations of women.
There have been a slew of movies in the past few years featuring a love interest in the
form of the pixie dream girl; that beautiful, spontaneous, free-spirited girl who
eventually is won over by our often hapless leading man. Director Marc Webb
acknowledges that this is indeed a paper-thin male fantasy and chooses to tell this story
from the point of view of a man who believes in it completely. The problem is that
Summer is a real person and the same free-spirited attributes that make her
so irresistible to Tom keep him from ever really possessing her the way he so desperately
wants to. Zooey Deschanel is a perfect choice to re-examine this archetype as she is
herself the quintessential indie pin-up girl and has even played the pixie frequently

Stereotypically in a film it is the male protagonist that inhabits the position of dominance.
The leading male role in a film is usually portrayed as being very masculine and having
the characteristics of a traditionally male figure:

In control
Romantically successful
Hence we get the concept of gaze theory, the lingering shot of a male character forcing
women to see the dominance of the male on screen. However in this film the male
character takes on a traditionally submissive role.

Tom is not in control, he is not in control of his life evidenced by the fact that he
writes greetings cards rather than doing what he lovesarchitecture. In his relationship
with Summer Tom isnt in control either, he is the one that wants to define their
relationship and commit themselves to one another yet Summer refuses to do this and
calls the shots. It is made abundantly clear throughout that the relationship is on
Summers terms or there will be no relationship.

It is also clear that Tom is not the strong, powerful type. Tom is physically
diminutive and frail. While trying to defend Summer from an unwanted suitor in a bar
Tom ends up being beaten up. Toms relationship with his sister also highlights his lack of
power it is Tom, the elder sibling in his 20s that relies on the support of his younger
sister who is merely a child.

When it comes to romance it is certainly clear that Tom is no Cassanova his

relationships continually fail and when they do he falls to pieces.

500 Days of Summer subverts the typically masculine stereotype by portraying

the leading male as more of a feminine character.

Similarly the female protagonist takes on the role of male within the film.
Traditionally female characters within films are:

In need of protection
Seek to be wooed
In this film Summer rejects romance in all forms. She appears to take the more
traditionally masculine role of someone who seeks only sexual gratification from a
member of the opposite sex rather than an emotional connection.

Similarly Summer takes on the role of protector rather than the protected. In the
bar scene when she has an unwanted suitor, Summer is perfectly capable of defending
herself and dealing with the situation. When Tom is subsequently injured because of his
misguided actions it is Summer who must protect him, it is she who removes him from
the situation to a protected area her apartment.

Summer is also sexually active, it is she who initiates the sexual encounters
whether it be the kiss in the office or sex in the shower. Traditionally it is the male
character within a film who initiates the first kiss and overpowers the females objections
to a romantic encounter, here it is Summer that fulfills that role.

Finally it is Summer who ends the relationship, who has the power to end what
she started. It is also Summer that re-captivates Tom when they both attend a mutual
friends wedding. She is the one who has managed to move on and it is her who ends up
with the perfect future. Traditionally it is the male who manages to woo the woman, the
male who moves on and who secures a happy future for themselves but here it is the
female character.

Close Viewing Questions

1. How are our expectations of the Rom Com genre challenged by the opening voice over?
Kind of depressing/story of boy meets girl but not a love story usually rom coms they end up
togather, makes you wonder what went wrong. Sardonic a sad misunderstanding of the graduate
2. How does the opening shot establish the problem or mystery for the audience?
Rings??? Whistle motif linksback to the not a love story motif
Jarring mismatch of voice over and shots//low lighting atypical of a romance film
N:B Tom the central protagonist works for a greeting card company. Consider later how this relates to
one of the central problems with his relationship with Summer.
3. Find out about the music and cultural reception of The Smiths. Comment on the significance of this to
the film.
4. What is the purpose of the non-linear (or anachronic) plot structure?
You can see the little bit of whats going wrong in their relationship/contrast before and afters
5. Comment on the fact that Tom trained as an architect. As his relationship with summer grows we see
him drawing more and more frequently.
-make summer the ideal woman for him
6. The story is told from Toms POV. What effect does this have of our view of the story?
Ya feel sympathy for him

Key Scenes
Ikea Day 34 27:34
7. What is the purpose of using IKEA as a setting? Note how various elements of production contribute to
the meaning of his scene. E.g. lighting, music (including the lyrics in the non-diegetic soundtrack),
- Kind of like a family setting
- Contrasting before and after differing attitudes
- Whistling: not a love story
- Focuses in the reality of their relationship
- build with a friend
- High key lighting
8. At the end of the scene, during an intimate close-up, there is a return to the films opening theme. What
is the purpose of this?
9. Consider how this relates to Toms occupation as a greeting card writer.
- Limits is potential,
- Cant really say what he wants??
- Not the truth
- Lazy/preten

Dancing in the Park 31:30

10. Throughout the film we are taken through the highs and lows of the relationship from Toms
perspective. The juxtaposition of days 35 and 303 are a clear example of this. How are these two, very
different moods, established using techniques of production?
Lighting, cheery music, mimics disney princess with the bird on his shoulder
Dark lighting
11. What is the purpose of the quote from Henry Miller?

35:34 Day 95
Sweet disposition
Never too soon
Oh, reckless abandon
Like no one's watching you
A moment of love
N:B This is the setting used in one of the films early scenes. In that scene Summer is wearing a
wedding ring but is not married to Tom.
12. Architecture and building are used throughout as a metaphor for a range of issues in the film; for
example the building of their relationship. How does Tom drawing on Summers arm relate to this?
How do the elements of production compliment the ideas in this scene?

Immediately followed by Day 109 39:00

In this scene Tom is invited into Summers world. The narrated voice over returns for the first time
since the opening credits, reinforcing the significance of the scene but at the same time perhaps
reminding us that this is not a film about love.
13. How would you describe the atmosphere in this scene and how is it created?

43:40. The conflict in Summers apartment.

Explain how the content of the scene is complimented by a range of film techniques. You
need to discuss Lighting, camera, sound, costume, editing, and the use of space.

47:12. Tom states his need for some kind of consistency Summer says I cant give
you that. Nobody can. How is the meaning of this scene accentuated by a range of film

104:05. In this segment the film departs from realism and moves into a more abstract
mode. We see a series of monologues to camera. What is the purpose of these

105:00 Summers party is in many ways the climax of the film. Toms expectations or
constructed view of Summer come into clear conflict with the reality of their relationship.
Discuss. You should refer to- The use of special effects such as split screen as well as
the images inside those separate screens and the conversion of the filmed image to
sketched outlines.
Music and lyrics.

The use of camera.

The use of symbolism throughout.

109:40 We see the consequences of Tom having been confronted by the defeat of his
expectations. Discuss.

113:31 Tom is invited to review his memories of his relationship with Summer. Discuss
the montage that follows. N.B. this is one of the key techniques in the film and clearly
alerts us to the central problem in Tom and Summers relationship.