Mindy Kaling (aka Kelly from The Office and whom I love) has a great piece in the New Yorker about the classic types of female roles in romantic comedies. These include the Klutz, Ethereal Weirdo, the Sassy Best Friend, and so much more and you should definitely read her piece.
Of course what she hopes for is more multi-dimensional complicated fleshed-out female roles that don’t pander to some male fantasy. And this is a complaint that has been heard around Hollywood for years. I too would like to see more films with women who have a range of emotions and sides to them and are strong and funny and overcome real challenges that women can relate to. But even then, although the roles would be better for actresses, they wouldn’t really be closer to life. Even movies with great heroines, like Out Of Africa, Fatal Attraction, or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which clearly have incredible female roles light years more interesting to watch than Katherine Heigl’s latest character, even these roles are not any closer to realistic than the perfect gorgeous skinny art gallery owner who’s fatal flaw is that she eats too much.
But this got me thinking…what if we went for those more realistic roles in romantic comedies? What would a rom com look like with archetypes that are just more based on real life? Maybe I should start pitching these story ideas…
Maybe Kaling’s Ethereal Weirdo a la the manic pixie dreamgirl (see Garden State) is just so weird she ends up in an asylum. And no one falls in love with her.
Maybe the Beautiful Klutz who’s perfect but clumsy could fall in love but then just bump into a wall at her wedding and fall down stairs and die.
For the Woman Who Is Obsessed With Her Career and No Fun at All, maybe she could just be so obsessed with her career that she never gets married or has kids and after turning forty, spends her entire life regretting her choices.
Instead of the Woman Who Works in an Art Gallery, the heroine is a tired fifty year old mom who only ever wears a bathrobe and looks older than she really is and can’t get her ex to pay child support and hates her life. She drives her kids to carpool, meets a guy online and doesn’t really love him but she is desperate so keeps seeing him. He’s embarrassed by her face but needs someone to take care of him so they got married.
Instead of the Skinny Girl who’s fatal flaw is being gluttonous and liking cheesecake, she could instead be the fat girl who eats too much and falls in love with a handsome too good for her hunk. He never loves her back and makes fun of her to his friends. Forever.
Or what about a woman who falls in love and then you time lapse fifteen years later. The husband works so much he barely ever sees his wife and when they do see each other, they barely speak, drudging along in a sexless marriage where they both constantly dream about divorce but are too lazy to do anything about it.
Or even start with the familiar set-up of the unassuming wife who finds out she got cheated on and her whole world is destroyed. But then, she takes him back, gets so depressed she has to check-in to a hospital and their kids get permanently screwed up by their parents and develop drug addictions.
Where’s Gary Marshall when you need him?