When hearing the phrase ‘rom-com’, the over-saturated, sickly sweet and tediously predictable offerings of the last decade are the quickest to spring to mind.
Movies such as Good Luck Chuck (2007) are prime examples of the way in which the genre has departed from the more thoughtful films of the classic rom-com era in favour of crude humour and formulaic plots. The genre has earned a reputation of being trashy as the magic of classic films such as When Harry met Sally or Notting Hill seems to have been forgotten. Amy Schumer shagging John Cena (Trainwreck) can hardly be compared to Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in that diner scene. This reputation, however, is something that Netflix seems to be attempting to dismantle with its recent movie Set It Up.
It is true that these classic films are at times problematic, and the crass overdone rom-coms that saturate the market today are tired. In a world where romance seems confined to swiping left and right, the perfectly timed Instagram post or a well-crafted Snapchat response, perhaps what we need is a little old fashioned romance. The industry currently overridden by money guzzling giants such as Marvel is lacking a bit of heart and soul. Enter Netflix’s Set It Up.
Set it Up, directed by Claire Scanlon and forefronted by power duo Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell provides the perfect antidote to both superhero fatigue and obscenity overload, reviving the rom-com genre in a way that is both superbly entertaining and progressively modern.
It tells the warm-hearted story of two frenetic PA’s who, in a bid for freedom, attempt to set their tyrannical bosses up. In a meet cute that doesn’t necessarily usurp a bookshop in Portobello Road but certainly stands up to it, Deutch and Powell’s chemistry sparks straight out of the screen. Their easy banter and seamless rapport propels the movie, ensuring that it doesn’t lean back on the crude humour of many modern romantic comedies. Set It Up, as with many of the golden era rom-coms, will surely become part of rom-com history (see that pizza scene).
What truly makes Set It Up great, however, is the way that it modernises the old style rom-com. While the classics stand the test of time, there is no doubt that they are frequently archaic in the way they present gender dynamics. Relationships are often unbalanced (eg. Pretty Woman, You’ve Got Mail) with gender stereotypes rampant. What Set It Up does so successfully is to present an entertaining love story while also highlighting important issues without ever seeming forced.
Through the character of Kirsten, we get a self made woman who at first seems overbearing but is revealed to be caring and supportive, inviting discussion of the struggles of being a career woman. We even get a redemptive character arc in the hyper-masculine Rick who finally taps into his emotions. This kind of successful representation of varying gender dynamics on screen is extremely valuable, and yet the film never loses sight of its goal – to entertain.
Netflix is certainly attempting to inject some heart back into the romantic comedy genre, taking the classic template and modernising it and in doing so reminding us of why we always loved rom-coms so much. Its other offerings such as To All The Boys I Loved Before show that this trend shows no signs of stopping and while films such as The Kissing Booth don’t sit quite so well, it seems romantic comedies are on the up. Besides, the path of true love never did run smooth.