“Rom-coms are soooooo boring! They’re cringy, sappy, filled with cliches and toxic behaviors.” These are the usual reasons people give for despising romantic comedies. Sure, this genre can be a bit predictable, still, this doesn’t mean that those movies can’t be entertaining. What if there was a way to improve the 3 most annoying romantic comedy tropes? Let’s see how this movie does it: Long Shot (2019) with Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron.
1 – Give the two leads some personality!
Romance’s strongest asset is the fact that the story is built around the characters’ personalities and lives. This gives the writer the chance to use the two lovebirds’ experiences and opinions to make the story more entertaining.
… yet one of the worst (and most prevalent) romantic comedy tropes is having two pieces of stale bread as protagonists.
Following the example of every Hallmark movie ever, a terrible rom-com will have an uninteresting, uncomplicated, uninspired protagonist. And it will spend an hour and a half trying to convince you that he/she is actually interesting.
Fortunately for us, that’s not the case of Long Shot (2019). The movie spends the first 20 minutes showing us their lives and their struggles. We see both our protagonists Charlotte and Fred taking initiative, reacting to uncomfortable situations, trying to do better, and making mistakes.
Fred has strong progressive ideals, but he’s also too proud for his own good, and too stubborn to compromise. Meanwhile, Charlotte is smart and ambitious but she has lost track of her initial aspirations, causing her to give up the things she cares about most for the sake of her career.
2 – The meet-cute
“Kids, I remember the day I met your mother like it was yesterday. She was wearing a spacesuit and fixing the blobber carburator of her ship. Her wrench slipped from her hand and started floating away, she tried to reach it but her human arms were too short. That’s when I decided to impress her with my telekinesis! I gave her back her tool, approached, and whispered: hey sexy”
The meet-cute is considered a staple of romance media. It’s the moment when the “future couple” meets for the first time and it’s usually awkward, adorable, funny, cringey, or straight-up insane.
In recent years, meet-cutes have been a mixed bag. Some movies go for the ordinary “We met in the hallway of our high school”, and some go for the buck wild and dangerous “I’ve been stalking you for years because you appeared to me in a vision” (looking at you 365 days).
However, sometimes even ordinary meet-cutes can become… problematic… when the writers decide to “spice up” the moment with a little too much drama (like Noah from The Notebook threatening to kill himself when Allie says no to a date).
Long shot (2019) handles this romantic comedy trope differently, though. Fred and Charlotte meet again after years by chance and even have a fairly normal conversation. I know right? No one was trying to “steal” the other’s job and no one had to rescued by a possible traffic accident. Just two people who know each other saying hi, crazy!
The “cute” part of meet-cute happens later, when Fred confronts the man who made him lose (quit) his job and falls on his face at the bottom of the stairs.
Combining the “ordinary” meeting of the two leads with some physical comedy makes the scene more entertaining without the need to turn it into a farce.
3 – Trouble in paradise
The third act conflict. The one romantic comedy trope that I just can’t stand.
Sure every movie, rom-com or not, needs to have conflict. In the specific case of a movie about a relationship, the conflict has to happen between the two lovebirds.
And what’s the best way to create conflict? Misunderstanding. When the otherwise smart and capable lead characters drop half of their IQ points for the sake of the plot.
She sees him hug a woman on the street and assumes that he has been married this whole time when in reality the woman is… HIS SISTER.
He hears a rumor about her wanting to move back to the Big City™ and assumes that she was never serious about their relationship, when in reality… SHE WANTS HIM TO MOVE IN WITH HER.
You get the point. The conflict appears out of thin air and is easily resolved so that no one has to question their actions, intentions, commitment, or insecurities. And after that, everyone lives happily ever after.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem. This romantic comedy trope takes the “realism” out of the situation. Couples don’t fight because of some convoluted misunderstanding and they don’t get back together without going through some changes.
In Long shot (2019) the leads have two major conflicts to deal with:
The first one is in the second act and sees Fred accusing Charlotte of “selling out”. He says that she is compromising her integrity and that she is not the person he expected her to be. On the other hand, she says that his stubbornness and refusal to listen to others’ opinions are the reason why his life went off the rails.
This conflict is generated by the character’s personalities clashing, not by some trick of fate.
And the second fight (in the third act) is just a repetition of this conflict on a larger scale. Charlotte has to compromise in order to advance in her career and Fred is having trouble adjusting to that.
The conflict is resolved only when both of them agree to meet in the middle. This is a great way to integrate this romantic comedy trope into the story without making the characters silly.