Sunday, June 29, 2014

They Came Together: Movie Review


Skewers romantic comedies without insulting its fans leading to a very funny comedy.
“They Came Together” is a comedy, but not a romantic comedy. That distinction should be made very clear because as the former, it works very well, but as the latter it really doesn’t work at all. It is of course a satire of romantic comedies and begins with Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) telling the story of how they met and fell in love, which of course fits the plot of a movie perfectly! 2014

Directed by: David Wain

Screenplay by: Michael Showalter, and David Wain

Starring: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler

All of the common tropes of romantic comedies are skewered here, and my two least favorite rom-com elements were up to bat first: the manic pixie dream girl (MPDG) and New York City is its own character. The latter of which they said out loud at least three times and I laughed every time because I’ve been waiting for a filmmaker to finally recognize that, yes, the audience gets it. They also played up the negative qualities of the MPDG because believe it or not, she might not be your dream girl. The repeated jokes were essentially beating a dead horse, and yet, at the same time, they were a breath of fresh air.

Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) in They Came Together.
It’s romantic comedies in general that they’re mocking, but a few specific ones were made pretty clear. They tackled the narration found in “Sex and the City” with Joel telling us that he’s going to go play basketball with his friends and ask each of them about his current relationship predicament while we then see him play basketball with his friends and ask them about his current relationship predicament. The plot tackles the one from “You’ve Got Mail” (among probably many others) with Molly’s quirky independent candy store falling victim to Joel’s corporate candy conglomerate opening across the street. That store is called Candy Systems and Research Superstore. The ridiculousness of everything was played up big time. The movie also has a great answer to the “I’ll have what she’s having” line from “When Harry Met Sally.”

A major issue with romantic comedy satires is that the jokes are frequently just making fun of romantic comedy fans, which is where “Friends with Benefits” failed. Luckily, “They Came Together” is closer to “The Baxter” where the romantic comedy characters are insulted rather than the fans that are watching the very type of movie they’re mocking. This doesn’t have any of the subtlety that co-writer Michael Showalter’s previous film “The Baxter” had, but it’s still funny.

The one thing that fans, particularly romantic comedy fans, should be aware of is that these are not characters to fall in love with. This film is not sweet, or endearing or romantic. It’s a comedy which doesn’t care about its characters or the plot or their life story; they’re just a vehicle for the jokes. And arguably, Joel is just a narrator to tell us what’s happening even though nothing of significance is actually happening. This is the one area where good romantic comedies have this film beat; by the end, we care for the protagonists and feel something. Here, we have just laughed. But the ending itself is probably one of their best send-ups of the romantic comedy genre.

But, as has been said, “They Came Together” is not a romantic comedy, it’s a comedy. And it’s funny. It’s very funny to those well versed in rom-com idioms.
Best of 2014
Best Lesser-known of 2014