Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Romantic Comedy or Turning Point?

PS I Love You
Then She Found Me

In the last few weeks I’ve been taking home movies that are billed as “romantic comedies,” at least based on the blurbs on the DVD covers. The first was PS I Love You which I thought had elements of romance and comedy, but was really more about decisions and changes in the life of the heroine and to a certain extent, her friends and family. The other two are Then She Found Me and Prime.

Then She Found Me is the story of 39 year old schoolteacher April Epner (Helen Hunt), a woman in her late thirties who marries Ben (Matthew Broderick), her longtime boyfriend and fellow art teacher. A year goes by and everything seems peachy, except for the fact that she isn’t pregnant and wants to be, and her adoptive mother is in the hospital. Shortly thereafter, her world is turned upside down when her husband leaves her, stating that he doesn’t want “this life.” He wants to pursue his art, and wants to be friends. No sooner is he out the door than April’s mother dies. With her life in complete turmoil, she meets Frank (Colin Firth) the divorced parent of one of her students. Frank’s wife left him and their two young children to follow her dream, and he is understandably bitter. Though Frank and April are both pretty damaged, they form a connection. Just to make things even more interesting, April is contacted by a woman named Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) who claims to be her biological mother. Bernice is a local cable talk show diva whose story of why she gave April up is constantly changing. As her relationships with the people around her form and dissolve and reform, April is forced to evaluate who she is and who she wants to be in her roles as daughter, wife, and mother.
All in all, this movie has a lot going on it. It has romance and comedy, but is in no way a classic romantic comedy. It is both entertaining and poignant, but it is really the story of April and the choices she makes about her life and her future. Anyone expecting a lot of laughs and a love story is bound to be disappointed, but anyone looking for a well told, well acted story of the kind of choices we all have to make as grown-ups will enjoy Then She Found Me.

This one follows a more traditional romantic comedy story arc, but its use of a very non-traditional couple and the lack of the requisite happy ending keep it from being representative of the genre. The story opens with 37 year old Rafi Gardet (Uma Thurman) telling her therapist Lisa (Meryl Streep) that she has signed the papers finalizing her divorce, and has suddenly started thinking about wanting a baby. After Lisa assures her that this is normal and natural and that she will find a way to move on, Rafi is somewhat consoled. She ventures out to see a movie with friends and meets 23 year old Bryan (David Bloomberg). They flirt, Bryan is smitten, and works up the nerve to call Rafi and ask her out. She says yes, and a good time is had by all. Both know there is an age difference, but not how great an age difference. As the relationship develops, Rafi shares her hopes and fears with Lisa. At the same time, Lisa is busy quizzing her son about the new woman he’s been dating. It takes a while, but she finally figures out that her son is Rafi’s new lover. What follows is essentially a comedy of errors as Lisa wrestles with the ethical considerations of both therapist and mother, and Rafi and Bryan deal with issues confronting a couple dealing with a large gap in life experience and different cultural backgrounds.
Though the characters in Prime don’t face as many life altering circumstances as those in Then She Found Me, they do respond in very realistic ways to the situations in which they find themselves. There are some very funny scenes, and the ending is much more realistic than in the typical romantic comedy. The fact that there is not a stereotypical happy ending pretty much boots this into a different genre entirely as far as I am concerned, but it didn’t make the movie any less enjoyable or worthwhile, just a little more reality based than I had expected. Overall, I would still recommend it to anyone looking for something light and entertaining.

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