Fuck Shakespeare. Haddaway (one of the greatest philosophers of the 1990’s) posed the question best: what is love? To this, you’ll get a variety of answers: a chemical reaction in the brain, compassion without judgment, finding someone you can’t live without, etc.
Finding love seems to be the ultimate quest in life, to the point where it drives people mad, so it’s really no wonder we as a society love to watch movies about love. In fact, my mom is such a fan of the movie Ghost, she scarred my sister and I for life by giving us both the haircut Demi Moore’s character Molly has in the film:
If asked to rattle off the names of ten Rom Coms (Romantic Comedies), odds are most of us could do it without even thinking about it. But to name ten good Rom Coms proves to be a more difficult task. We, as viewers are repeatedly subjected to the same over-used tropes and poor character stereotypes, which are subsequently leading to the death of the film genre as a whole. How many times can we see the frigid bitch? The gold-digger? The aloof, cool, hipster Manic Pixie Dream Girl? The desperate one? The cool, successful career guy? The rich dude? There are so many films that fall into the shitty, boring, deja vu void. From 1995 to 2017, there have been 534 Romantic Comedies released, and while many follow the same, tired archetype, every so often we’re blessed with a gem.
If I told you The Wedding Singer was one of the best romantic comedies of the last twenty years, would you believe me? Back in 1998, Adam Sandler (RIP his career) and Drew Barrymore starred in the aforementioned film that was virtually ripped to shreds by Roger Ebert. Giving it one measly star, he declared The Wedding Singer as “One of the byproducts of the dumbing down of America.” Don’t get me wrong, the film follows the very typical and expected formulaic guidelines for a romantic comedy: boy meets girl, friendship arises and they secretly pine for one another, love is realized, circumstances tear them apart, turmoil at three quarters, resolution, happily ever after. To be categorized as a Rom Com, there needs to be a few, “he hees” and “ha haas” here and there. What separates this particular film from its genre-mates is that it exists as a parody of itself. Rather than eliciting so many laughs that it errs on the side of comedy alone, the romantic element is still strong and present enough to bring the viewer back to the original storyline without subtracting from its value. The 80’s were clearly an era of excess and bad choices, especially in terms of aesthetics. Everything is so extreme, from the hair to the personalities, to the celebrity cameos (shout out to Jon Lovitz and Billy Idol), that it elevates an ordinary movie into a unique realm of complete absurdity. Even the most hated characters, like Glenn Gulia, the cheating, arrogant rich boy, or Linda, the gold digging runaway bride, are likeable because they become a comedic and ridiculous pastiche of everything we all hate. Most importantly, the lead characters, Robbie and Julia, are equals - a wedding singer and a waitress, a dichotomy often overrun by financial and social status bias.
One of the most common issues psychologists and analysts have with Rom Coms is that they fuel unrealistic expectations about love and relationships that ultimately have an unhealthy impact on viewers, with some even arguing that mimicking over-the-top gestures seen in these movies normalizes stalking behavior. Whether you believe that or not, one thing most of us can probably agree on is that those fairy tale endings can piss us off, or make us feel like shit about our own love lives. And my emphasis on The Wedding Singer’s absurdity isn’t unfounded. The whole film is a tongue-in-cheek reference to its genre as a whole, like the scene when Robbie meets Billy Idol in the first class section on a plane, they see Julia and Glenn in coach, and Robbie then serenades her and they live happily ever after. Did I mention how amazing the soundtrack is on it’s own? “Somebody Kill Me” by Robbie Hart is an unforgettable classic that’s unfortunately all too relatable.
Rather than leaving the viewer feeling sappy yet self-critical, or envious as many romantic comedies do, The Wedding Singer’s straight up ridiculous and blatantly unrealistic plot makes for a light-hearted, feel good movie that defies expectations and goes beyond the confines of its genre. In layman’s terms, The Wedding Singer is a great movie about love, so fuck you, Roger Ebert. RIP.
Amanda is an artist/writer with a degree in visual and critical studies from the School of Visual Arts, though 90% of her day is spent looking at pictures of dogs. Instagram: @spin.osa