Monday, September 06, 2010



Katie Holmes
Listening to her co-star at the Q&A after a screening.
Photo by Eric Roffman

I enjoyed THE ROMANTICS, a film for which I'm definitely not the target audience.

In addition to enjoying it, I think it is an important film.

There have been a recent spate of romantic comedies which have been sometimes amusing, sometimes raunchy, sometimes funny, often lame, sometimes inventive, and usually calibrated to be chick flix or teen-guy flix or 40-year-old-geek flix.

But THE ROMANTICS is different in many ways from all these films, and from most other films as well, in a way that makes it fresh, interesting, enjoyable and important. First of all, it is not a "rom-com," but, rather, something which is very different: a realistic dramatic comedy about love (and jealousy and competition and life and friendship) between real people.

It is enjoyable, because it is a good story, well told, with a sense of humor, attractively photographed, and about love.

Here are 10+ reasons I think THE ROMANTICS (TR) is important:

1. It is a simple, real story about real people; they have the kind of issues real people have.

The film does not use artificial “stake-raisers” and “interest-hypers” (ie. no tigers, no convenient illnesses, no kooky personalities, no ex-spouses arresting other ex-spouses, etc) that now seem to be standard in romantic comedies.

2. The characters are intelligent (yet ordinary) young people .

Romantic comedies about intelligent people are very rare.

The characters are some years past their days at a major university, but they are not yet particularly successful (some more, some less). They are not cartoons; they are people with real lives. The film does not gloss over their defects. Each character (even the main character) stands by their own personality, for all its qualities and its faults.

3. TR is both comedy and drama. And a love story.

Love... the way real people love and desire each other (not the way movie characters “love” each other) is also rare in films.

With real conflict, real problems, and real lives at stake, this is a drama; but with humor and romance and love, it is also a comedy. And it is grounded, simple, and in some ways a non-romantic approach to romance.

4. Katie Holmes gives a brilliant, rich performance. The acting by all the performers is terrific – in a modern, naturalistic style.

Katie Holmes gives a brilliant, rich performance – from the first moment we see her, silent in her car, there is a wealth of life, conflict, history, and the future available in her face and her body language. The big scenes are both believable and emotionally affecting. Performances by Josh Duhamel, Anna Paquin, Candice Bergen and others are also excellent. (There’s one moment with a pained look by Candice Bergen that is worth the price of admission all by itself.) All the acting is in a naturalistic style, grounded in the back-story, the environment, and the subtext. It is a quite different style of acting from the “centered voice from god” or the “centered cry from poverty/depravity/alcohol/illness/madness,” or the “suffering but beautiful sounding singer” styles that are most often celebrated as great movie acting.

5. The structure is classic, yet, this film is different from the traditional romantic comedy movie.

The center of the film moves straight to the scenes where the major conflicts and relationships are played out. The rest of the film provides a world around the main story that gives it richness, depth and credence.

The structure borrows from classic models. The main dramatic action takes place over the course of one night, on the verge of a marriage, and with a groom that goes missing. (Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place over the course of one night; Antonioni’s L’avventura begins with a woman who goes missing by the water; weddings are a staple…) Yet, this film is different from the traditional romantic comedy movie: there is no last minute chase; the main protagonist is the ex-lover (Katie Holmes) of the groom-to-be (Josh Duhamel), not the bride-to-be (Anna Paquin). TR is really focused very strongly and sharply on the dramatic interactions first between Katie and Josh, and then between Katie and Anna.

Katie Holmes & Josh Duhamel

6. The cinematography by Sam Levy is brilliant (set design, costume design, and editing are also excellent).

Although it takes place in one location over one night, it never feels constricted (except to the extent that the story is about that very limitation). The images in the film are beautiful. Much of the film seems "hand-held," (with a great camera by a very expert hand), in a way that makes the characters seem less like movie stars and more like people.

7. RT is very much a picture made from a woman’s point of view.

The men are somehow out of focus. Even the way the women put on make-up becomes part of the content.

Most romantic comedy movies are made either from a man’s point of view, a studio executive’s point of view, or a comic’s point of view.

8. The conflicts between the characters are treated as unique and particular, yet they are immediately recognizable, and familiar to both men and women.

Although personally I am not usually that interested in movie weddings and the preparations for them, both the major issues and the minor details evoked familiar memories in me about experiences I have had, and the reactions of people I have known. Though I am anything but the target audience for this film, I found it interesting from beginning to end.

9. The style of creation was collaborative.

Although the film is the essence of "auteurity" (hey, Sarah Palin and Shakespeare, I can make up words, too) -- Galt Niederhoffer is the author of the book, the screenwriter, the director, and a producer, the auteur if ever there was one -- much of the strength of the film probably comes from the close nature of the way Galt collaborated with the crew in preparing the film, and with Katie Holmes and the rest of the cast in executing it.

10. The film lives in the real America not some fantastical movie America.

Like a European film whose charm comes from the connection of the characters to the physical environment, this film is very American in its setting and in the characters' lives.

11. Also, I enjoyed it.

It would make a lot of sense, from a marketing point of view as well as for the fact that they deserve it, to make a promotional push for awards nominations for Katie Holmes (as best actress) Sam Levy for cinematography, and for the other principals as well:

Galt Niederhoffer (screenwriter and director)
Anna Paquin, Josh Duhamel and Candice Bergen (supporting actors)

(and other technical credits).

So, to sum up, I think the film is unique, extremely well made, well acted (in a refreshing, modern, naturalistic style), nicely directed and plotted, well captured on film, interesting, dramatic and humorous, and thus a model for realistic romantic American dramatic comedy.

It is important because it's enjoyable, simple, and real! (And that is extremely hard to accomplish.)

I hope it is very successful.


The Official THE ROMANTICS website:



(There are quite few YouTube videos related to The Romantics and its stars, but this link – the official trailer -- is the only official The Romantics Movie video on their channel so far):

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