Synopsis: Oscar®-nominated director Arthur Hiller (Love Story) directs “a perfect cast” (Leonard Maltin), including funnyman Dudley Moore (Arthur) and captivating Oscar® winner Mary Steenburgen (Parenthood), in a modern tale of the trials and tribulations of falling in love… with someone completely unavailable. Adapted by Bernard Slade (Same Time, Next Year) from his hit stage play, this upbeat urban comedy is an engagingly wry spectacle where sparkling wordplay becomes scintillating foreplay.
Playwright Jason Carmichael (Moore) hasn’t had a hit since he lost his writing partner. But when gawky neophyte writer Phoebe Craddock (Steenburgen) enters his life, she not only helps him pen hit after hit… she also steals his heart! After years of intimate collaboration, the two would be as close as the keys on a typewriter, were it not for one thing: Jason’s wife. But when his marriage fails, the stage is finally set for the two lovers to either extend their romantic run indefinitely… or close it down for good!
Romantic Comedy 5.75
eyelights: Mary Steenburgen. Dudley Moore. Frances Sternhagen.
eyesores: its lack of comedy. its lack of romance. the dialogues. the editing.
“Where’d everybody go?” “The reviews came in.”
‘Romantic Comedy’ is a 1983 motion picture based on the hit Broadway play by Bernard Slade. It tells the story of a lengthy collaboration between an experienced playwright and his younger, newly-minted writing partner. He is married, she is smitten. And although theirs is a platonic relationship, beneath the surface lies stronger emotions.
I had seen this title floating about in various dustbins in second-hand stores and pawn shops for years, and was completely unmoved by it (partly because the cover makes it look run-of-the-mill) but I eventually weakened and picked it up for a little over a 1$, no doubt because I was trading in some DVDs and couldn’t find anything else.
But… holy wow! Can you say “misnomer”? ‘Romantic Comedy’ is neither romantic, nor is it a comedy. In fact, one would be kind to call it a dramedy with a twist of romantic tension.
The only thing that keeps it going is the main cast:
- Mary Steenburgen (whom I’ve had a mild crush on ever since ‘Back to the Future Part III‘) is always winsome, And lovely. And delicate. Oh my.
- Dudley Moore expresses subtlety expertly (and overacts at other moments – perhaps to make up for it…). I’m no great fan, but he certainly had talent.
- Frances Sternhagen has always been great as a sarcastic, slightly cantankerous, older woman with a heart of gold, so it was nice to see her playing something different. And well.
But, beyond that, there’s not much to recommend ‘Romantic Comedy’. The dialogues aren’t at all witty (I’m not sure how they compare to the original stage version, mind you), Moore’s character is unlikable, and the whole thing feels like a half-baked TV movie, marred as it is by an editing style that suggests pauses for commercial adverts.
The only truly evocative moment of the whole thing is when Jason finally owns up his feelings to Phoebe, telling her that it is the first time that he’s loved selflessly and that, despite things not working out, he still does – and she remains his best friend. I was touched by the sentiment, despite the brevity of the moment and the ruined ending.
‘Romantic Comedy’ may have had potential, maybe even good intentions, but it’s ineptly delivered. And it’s a damned shame: the setting is pitch-perfect and these romantic entanglements are the stuff of classic romantic comedies. Except that it plops into the audience’s lap joylessly, without heart or soul, leaving it as unfulfilled as its main characters.
Date of viewing: January 2, 2016