Today in The New York Times, Brooks Barnes reports that the death of the romantic comedy has been greatly exaggerated . . . sort of.

As Barnes points out, big-budget rom-coms used to be as ubiquitous at the movies (especially in the summer) as superhero movies are now. But in the last few years, something has changed. These movies can be expensive to make—lavish sets, big stars—but they have flopped.

I pointed this out as well in an article earlier this year here at Christianity Today, and I posited that what's taking their place is a new breed of comedy-with-romance-(or-not): movies in which the leads do not ultimately end up together, but they learn something new about love. Or movies in which romance is just one piece of a larger lesson about love. I wrote about movies like Drinking Buddies and About Time, and having seen it this summer I think you can add Begin Again (and director John Carney's previous film, Once) to that list.

Barnes writes about something else that is also replacing the traditional big-budget rom-com: the indie rom-com. This makes a lot of sense. Romantic comedies don't have to be expensive, big-budget affairs. And the benefit of making them on the cheap is that even modest ticket sales make everyone happy.

There's another aspect to this, too: lower budgets mean that the movies don't have to have the broadest appeal possible. They can appeal to more niche markets: literary hipster types who like Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, the forthcoming What If with Daniel Radcliffe), sci-fi fans (Safety Not Guaranteed, next week's The One I Love), more edgy movies (Obvious Child, They Came Together), and other sub-sub-genres that wouldn't have played well at the cineplex, ...

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Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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