As most novel to film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books would demonstrate, there’s a right way and wrong way to portray romantic connections on screen. Whether crossing genres with drama, comedy, or action, romantic films succeed with realistic, authentic plots and characters instead of sensationalized star-crossed lovers.
Films like Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, or Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians prove that dramatic romances and rom-coms can be cinematic without sacrificing the relationship of their leads. It doesn’t matter if they end up together or not, like in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, where viewers are dropped in during the end of a relationship and build it back from the beginning. The trailers sucking movie-goers and streamers in with the promise of love, laughter, and drama, these films collapsed under the pressure of highly-rated romances that came before them.
‘Remember Me’ (2010)
Fresh from the second installment of the teen vampire series Twilight, Robert Pattinson enticed viewers with a dramatic role as a troubled, rebellious young man finding his way in the world. He meets Ally (Emilie de Raven), who understands his pain differently, and the two tumble into love, relearning the meaning of happiness. Audiences rated the film higher than critics, but Remember Me is one of those films that had some promise, but failed to be memorable.
Pattinson succeeds in bringing another brooding performance to the screen, but the film flops overall in its ability to please. The film rubbed critics the wrong way with its baffling build-up to a real-life American tragedy, providing no build-up context to suggest credibility for the film’s ending twist. Instead of living up to its titular message, Remember Me is better left behind in the 2010s.
‘Table 19’ (2017)
A fully-casted film, Table 19 flops with critics and viewers with its ability to entertain. After getting dumped by the brother of the bride/best man, Eloise (Anna Kendrick) still chooses to attend the wedding and is placed at the very last table. Sitting among the other wedding rejects, Eloise forms a bond with the other guests as they all struggle with their lives and attachments.
Wavering with its identity, the film (written by Mark and Jay Duplass) doesn’t fit in as a full Indie film and doesn’t have a whole foot in the blockbuster romantic comedy door either. With supporting cast members like Lisa Kudrow and Stephen Merchant, the multiple conflicts muddy the pacing. The payoff for Eloise felt forced and inorganic, causing audiences and critics to score the film low, among other issues.
‘Destination Wedding’ (2018)
Come for the stars, leave for the monologues. Starring Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder, Destination Wedding follows the trip of two social outcasts begrudgingly attending a wedding in California wine country. The film spends far too much time with lengthy philosophical monologues and stiff, awkward performances from both stars.
The film tried to avoid the typical formula for wedding romance stories but, in doing so, failed to properly develop the characters despite attempts by two of Hollywood’s notable leads. Critics and audiences were unimpressed with the rom-com, disappointed in the lead-up of reuniting Reeves and Ryder once again.
Unfortunately, Netflix’s remake crashes and burns despite casting well-known stars like Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Armie Hammer. When a young woman falls in love with a widower, the two marry, and she is forced to reckon with the death of his previous wife (and titular character), Rebecca, that is overshadowing her life as the new Mrs. de Winter (James). A period piece, Rebecca never captures the essence of the source novel written by Daphne du Maurier, trying too hard to stand alone from Hitchock’s 1940 film.
Failing to create the gothic puzzle that is the original, Ben Wheatley’s version stumbled through the two hours of runtime, critics and viewers unable to find the soul of the film. The performances by James and Hammer lacked in the representation of du Maurier’s de Winters, each failing to accurately portray a two-sided character whose switch is just below the surface. Audiences are better off purchasing The Criterion Collection’s disc version of Hitchcock’s film instead of streaming the remake.
‘Mr. Right’ (2015)
A story about a hitman romance, Mr. Right didn’t equate to a hit romance movie. When Martha (Anna Kendrick) falls for Francis (Sam Rockwell), he appears to be the perfect man until she realizes he’s a hitman with a moral compass, hunting down the criminal enterprises that attempt to hire him. The chemistry between Kendrick and Rockwell is evident, but the film’s overall confusion on which tone to pursue caused critics and audiences to lose sight of their bond.
It is a film that was desperate to be good but fell short. Struggling to merge the genres of romance and hitman action, Mr. Right failed to impress audiences and critics during its hour and a half runtime. The Oscar-nominated stars were not enough to carry a troublesome plot and poor execution by the individuals behind the camera.
‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’ (2016)
Falling victim to the sequel curse, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 couldn’t compete with the originality of the first film. The second film sees the Portokalos return for an even bigger wedding as Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) struggle to parent their teen daughter. Audiences awaited the highly anticipated return of the 2000s hit, especially when Nia Vardalos returned to pen the second film. The build-up was not worth the payoff.
Critics and viewers were not pleased with the recreation of the first film within the second, missing the charm and authenticity Vardalos brought to life with Toula’s journey. Passing the journey off to other Portokalos family members in a parallel plotline allowed more rom-com stereotypes to seep through and saturate a franchise that warded them off.
‘If I Stay’ (2014)
Based on the novel of the same name by Gayle Forman, the film adaptation of If I Stay didn’t translate the same experience readers felt with the novel as viewers did with the screen. After a brutal car accident, Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) falls into a coma and proceeds to have an out-of-body experience, her life replaying before her, asking her to choose to hang on or to go.
Teen romance films can wow critics and audiences, but this was not one of them. Moretz carried the movie with her performance, but the poor writing and depiction of source material watered her down. The supernatural element of the young adult story bored critics and viewers, forcing a low-rated film that falls into the pile of teen-novels-made-into-movies that aren’t worth revisiting.
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