Are rom coms making a comeback?

Anyone But You, the new film starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, is getting fans to the theatre. The film, a modernised take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing from director Will Gluck, was released on 26 December 2023, and has been a slow-yet steady burn at the box office. After this past weekend, the little romantic comedy that could has earned £163m ($207m) globally, surging past The Marvels.

The movie follows Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell), who find themselves forced together during a wedding after their extraordinary first date goes bad. Plot-wise, it’s nothing groundbreaking. Yet it has grabbed the attention of movie-goers – including Risa Bramon Garcia, a producer and casting director who worked on films such as True Romance, 200 Cigarettes, and shows like The Affair and Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. She tells BBC Culture that she intends to see the film largely because of its popularity in the zeitgeist right now. While plenty of people love “a good rom com”, she says, “this one in particular has taken hold” of movie-goer interest. 

Indeed, Anyone But You’s box office success is intriguing, especially because romantic comedies haven’t gotten people off the couch the way they once did in more than a decade. According to a 2023 Reuters report, the 1990s through 2000s was the “golden age” for romantic comedies – kicked off no doubt by 1989’s When Harry Met Sally. Films such as Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill, to name a few, had movie-goers lined up at the box office window – with the 2002 flick My Big Fat Greek Wedding perhaps learning from its decade of successful 90s predecessors to become the highest grossing rom-com of all time at £290m ($368.7m).

While fans might remember the titles (and the funniest or most heartfelt lines) of the 90s and early-noughties golden age fondly, some female stars who were known for their rom-com performances, felt betrayed by the way their films were ultimately viewed. In a 2022 interview with the New York Times, Sandra Bullock, who starred in films such as Miss Congeniality and While You Were Sleeping, revealed that she stopped making rom-coms on purpose because she felt they were “undervalued”. She was being type-cast into the roles, she said, while men who made rom coms weren’t subjected to the same fate. 

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“Anytime someone said ‘chick flick’ or ‘rom-com’, it was just disparaging,” Bullock told the Times. “I think when everything swung toward the very masculine action-adventure, women got relegated to the arm piece, or the damsel in distress. Then, when rom-coms came back in it was always like, ‘Oh, we’ll let the women come back in, but it’s going to be this formula that we like, and it can’t be too edgy.” 

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