Here’s a take you probably haven’t heard in a while: 2000’s era romantic comedies are the best era of movies. Sure, you have your 80’s John Hughes films, your sci-fi flicks, but what happened to the good old idealistic rom-coms of the 2000s: think 50 First Dates (2004), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), The Proposal (2009), or Just Go With It (2011). There is something about hunkering down in your bed, fuzzy blanket draped over your feet, with rain pattering quietly on your window and turning on a classic like Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) that makes a smile creep across my face.
Let’s dissect what makes a 2000’s rom-com a special type of movie. First, it starts with your love interest pairing. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, or Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, these iconic pairings buzz with the electricity of a new, all-encompassing, passionate love. From the get-go we are faced with the inevitability of an epic love story unfolding. Yes, maybe Sandra Bullock’s character is too career focused for a man in her life, but as soon as Ryan Reynolds enters the screen it is understood that they will end up together. In a day and age filled with so much anxiety and unknown, the inevitability of love that is so common in 2000’s rom-coms is satisfyingly comforting.
Now we explore what exactly makes a female lead so 2000’s? Is it the barely visible eyebrows (@ Drew Barrymore)? Is it the low-rise jeans just hanging off of Kate Hudson’s hips? Or is it the kid-like personality paired with straight sex appeal exuding from Brooklyn Decker? These actresses embody the perfect girl who isn’t exactly looking for love yet is faced with the prospect of it. You may try to stop it, but you can’t help but be instantaneously jealous of her cool persona, perfect hair, flawless makeup—need I continue. And then there’s always that dreaded final aspect: as a rom-com actress, you can’t ever be taken seriously in a thought-provoking, dramatic, more challenging film. Oh yes, they will try: Sandra Bullock in Gravity (2013) or Jennifer Aniston in Cake (2014), but alas, they are plagued to be loved only as “that girl” from “that movie about falling in love” forever.
So then what makes an actor rom-com material? It’s the shy, yet smoldering look in Bradley Cooper’s eyes, the goofy smile on Ben Stiller’s face, the rock-hard abs on Ryan Gosling’s torso. But even more so, all these men share a natural charisma that makes young women such as myself infatuated within minutes. In times where romantic dates include a candlelit FaceTime and men can swipe through women like they’re ordering food, I find that women crave some semblance of the old-fashioned chivalrous man. We want someone to run off the field and kiss us in the rain Chad Michael Murray style or travel back in time for us… you know, the small things in life.
The final piece of the puzzle is the plot of the movie. A good 2000’s rom-com begins with a spontaneous, impromptu meeting of the female and male lead. Think: Dax running into Rachel in a taxi in Something Borrowed (2011). Then, there’s the back and forth, the will they or won’t they between the two protagonists. There is just enough plot development to make your heart beat fast with the anticipation of the first kiss. A couple of cute dates, a few dalliances in a field of wildflowers, and you are invested in this couple. Inevitably, though, the film reaches a climactic scene; it seems as if this couple will never truly find love with each other, and thus come the tears you claim to be crying for this imaginary couple but are really masking your own insecurities about your love life. Too deep? Well, just as soon as you think your heart will break in two, you are once again thrust into the roller coaster of the movie. Somehow the two protagonists find each other, inevitably gaze into each other’s eyes, and passionately make out. The screen zooms out on Central Park, and your heart flutters, content with the love radiating between these two completely fictional characters.
As much as I love these rom-coms, it should not go unsaid that there are many faults in representation in these movies. The mostly white, heterosexual, cisgender castings make it hard for many audiences to really connect to the films. Everyone wants to see themselves in the role of someone falling in love, but how are you supposed to do that when every person you see onscreen doesn’t look like you? While recent rom-coms have somewhat improved their representation, think To All the Boys I Loved Before (2018) or Love Simon (2018), we still have a long way to go; there is no excuse to not make films more diverse.
Overall, 2000’s rom-coms offer a quick escape from reality, which is why they are so great. For the idealistic individual, it provides a romantic heaven in which the guy and girl do fall in love. It’s uncomplicated, unadulterated love that doesn’t have to climb barriers such as a global pandemic. It’s reliable and genuine. So for now, it’s pretty simple: I want to fall in love sitting up in the air on a Ferris wheel under a sky full of stars. Is that too much to ask for?