I love romantic comedies. Anything written by Nora Ephrom or starring a pre-plastic surgery Meg Ryan I memorized, purchased, and re-watched annually. 'You've Got Mail,' 'While You Were Sleeping,' 'Sleepless in Seattle,' 'Truth About Cats and Dogs,' and 'The Proposal' are my top five to date. Unfortunately, while the 80s and 90s introduced realistic romantic comedies about middle-class couples humorously struggling to find each other; the post-90s simplified the plot into terrible cliches about the uber-perfect, uber-successful, uber-glamorous woman and her one-dimensional love interest (‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’ ‘Kate & Leopold,’ Anything starring Matthew McConaughey). So, whenever I find a decent romantic comedy after 1995, I immediately hoard it like a rabid dog, knowing five thousand crap fests starring Jennifer Lopez are sure to follow. So, if you love rom coms but are tired of the clichéd crapaholic factory, then check out the below flicks.
1. ‘Something New’ (2006)
Upper-class finance manager, Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) falls in love with down-to-earth, gardener Brian Kelly (Simon Baker) of a different race.
What makes it quirky?
We've seen the cross-cultural love story in ‘West Side Story’ and the straight-laced business woman meets ordinary dude in EVERY SINGLE LIFETIME MOVIE EVER. But, bringing the two together creates 'something new.' Director Sanaa Hamri’s covert visual analogy of emotionally suppressed Kwanzaa with her verdant-less garden, started by opening the film with bleached out colors while slowly rolling them across the film before ending in a warm rose color. The heavy hitting cast of Donald Faison (‘Scrubs’), Alfre Woodard (Everything Awesome), Sanaa Lathan (‘Nip/Tuck’) and Simon Baker (The Mentalist’) augmented the script. If I didn't already have a MASSIVE crush on Baker, his character’s charisma (and muscles) would've won me over.
Would any hot single LA guy REALLY pursue such a bitter pill to such lengths? Would such a tightly wound, sue-happy woman really not call the police the minute her date knocks down the door (in the hottest make out scene ever)? Either way, Kriss Turner’s script, Sanaa Hamri’s directing and the cast’s amazing acting all gave the rom com canon, ‘something new.’
2. ‘Dream for An Insomniac’ (1996)
A fun-loving, Holly GoLightly-dressing, Frank Sinatra-obsessing coffee shop worker Frankie (Ione Skye) falls in love with a blue eyed stranger, David Shrader (Mackenzie Astin).
What Makes it Quirky?
Did you read the above description? This 90s indie film opens with a black and white ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's’ tribute and shifts to color when Frankie meets her blue-eyed stranger. In true to life casting, the film not only features the original rom com heroine Ione Skye (‘Say Anything’), it placed a ‘Friends’-era Jennifer Anniston as an up and coming actress with little talent as the best friend.
It's the 90s, so expect tired conversations about Morrissey, Morrison and Cobain that were clichéd even then. Yes, the production (and acting) values were low. But, it will definitely charm you in the end. I totally fell in love with Mackenzie Astin’s down-to-earth nice guy. You will, too.