Me and Mindy Kaling Used to Like Romantic Comedies

image via amazon.com

This being a Leap Year, as you all know, there were a number of Leap Year-themed episodes on television shows I watch (okay, one episode of 30 Rock), which got me thinking about a romantic comedy I saw a few years ago, imaginatively entitled Leap Year.

Watching Leap Year resulted in my writing the following entry in my journal:

22 January 2010

Am considering banning romantic comedies from my life.

In spite of this, I started thinking about watching it again. I’ve also been reading Mindy Kaling’s memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which at one point includes Mindy’s views on romantic comedies. Happily, her views are decidedly in favor, at least until the genre was ruined, in her opinion. I can’t say I disagree, and Leap Year might have been the final straw.

Inexplicably feeling empowered by having this opinion in common with Mindy Kaling, and thinking of Matthew Goode’s scruffy goatee, I watched it again. This being a Leap Year and all.

The basic premise of Leap Year, for those of you who have not experienced it, or who were sufficiently less entranced by Matthew Goode’s scruffy goatee to forget it quickly, is this: Anna (Amy Adams) has been dating her cardiologist boyfriend for four years; when he misses a prime opportunity to propose to her, and subsequently leaves for a medical conference in Dublin, she decides to follow him and propose to him herself. On Leap Day. Along the way Anna meets Declan (Matthew Goode).

My objection to this movie is its complete disconnection from reality. You may be recoiling in horror at my expectation of connectedness-to-reality from a romantic comedy, but I don’t mean gloom-and-doomsday reality, I mean relatable characters. Here are some examples of what I deem to be the unrealistic aspects of the movie.

  • Anna is a straight-laced, tightly-wound “apartment stager”. Is this a real job? If so, does she really make enough money at it to be applying for an apartment that sits next to the Boston Common?
  • Anna’s boyfriend is a cardiologist. Cardiology, according to Wikipedia, is “a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the heart”. Notably, Wikipedia also says, “Cardiologists should not be confused with cardiac surgeons”. Yet, dinner with the proposal-that-wasn’t is interrupted by Cardiologist Boyfriend receiving text messages requesting (what appear to be) surgery consults from fellow doctors.
  • Anna flies from Boston to Ireland in a tight skirt and heels – heels that notably include a strap around the ankle. That’s a long flight. It’s not a flight on which I would wear tight anything; Toms, leggings, and an abundance of layers being my flying uniform of choice whenever possible. But in particular, I require no tight straps around my ankles, which are prone to swelling, especially when I fly. (I share this to reinforce my point, and just in case anyone needed confirmation of my prematurely geriatric nature.)
  • On this trans-Atlantic flight, Anna unburdens herself to her seatmate without the loosening influence of alcohol, behavior I believe to be highly improbable in a person as tightly-wound as Anna. As another such individual, I speak from experience.
  • The pilot of Anna’s plane has “underestimated” the severity of a storm they are approaching, and is forced to re-route to Cardiff, Wales. Once landed in Cardiff, even though she still has something like two days to get to Dublin before Leap Day, Anna remains determined to get to Dublin right away, in spite of a ferocious and unreal-looking storm.
  • In spite of a ferocious and unreal-looking storm, Anna convinces an aged, experienced seafarer to take her across to Ireland in his boat.
  • Anna traverses much of the Irish countryside in these same improbable traveling clothes. In 3-inch, ankle-binding heels, indomitable Anna teeters through terrain that includes loosely paved roads; wet sand and mud; grassy, rocky slopes; and castle ruins! A highlight for me is when, while waiting for a train, she hikes all the way up a grassy, rocky hill in her tight skirt, fussy top, and heels to reach a castle ruin – then, of course, she rambles through the ruin. Where are this girl’s jeans? And Chuck Taylors?
  • Having misjudged the time required to hike the hill and ramble the ruin, Anna runs through a sudden torrential downpour down a now-muddy hillside, and finds herself face-first in a giant mud puddle. And still she misses her train. At least she had the good sense to remove those shoes before attempting that speedy descent.
  • The jeans appear at last, rendering more ridiculous their absence in earlier exploits.

All of those examples are mostly about Anna, but I find Declan equally inexplicable. What seems to clinch it for me is that in spite of their having nothing really in common or any apparent attraction other than that born of time-intensive close proximity, they fall in love: one conversation in which each shares one single thing that makes them either the hyper-planner or the disaffected acerbic breaks down every brick in the erstwhile wall of mutual animosity.

Really? I just don’t get it. Why does he like her? More importantly, why does she like him? What does it say about our society as a whole that women are portrayed as either Uptight Control Freaks or the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the men are apparently excusable man-children? And if our female lead is an Uptight Control Freak, she will end up with a very attractive jerk who is kind of a loser.

That’s what I miss about old romantic comedies, I guess; how women could have big personalities in legitimately funny screwball comedies without being clichés. Maybe the characters have always lived in apartments they couldn’t afford and had jobs that rarely exist (at least as sole occupations). I can excuse a lot of that for stories about people making real connections with each other. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

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