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Posts Tagged ‘Writing the Romantic Comedy’

“The problem with romantic comedy is really—what keeps two people apart? What insurmountable problem keeps two people apart? And in the modern times it’s very hard to know what that could possibly be since there’s no rules about manners, and if people are married they can get divorced. There’s no class problems the way that there used to be that fueled endless numbers of movies like Stella Dallas all these kinds of  films that turned on things that you can’t turn a movie on anymore. And [Sleepless in Seattle] is a movie in which the two people don’t know each other and that’s how that problem is solved. And it’s actually a very funny way to solve that problem. In You’ve Got Mail they can’t be together because he owns a bookstore that is going to put her out of business— that is a big problem. In many movies people are just engaged to other people, which I always think is a very easy way out of this problem. But Sleepless is kind of amazing, it just assumes that these two people live on other ends of the county and don’t know who the other person is and that’s why they can’t be together. I like that. I think that’s simple & fun. “
Writer/Directr Nora Ephron
Sleepless in Seattle director’s commentary

P.S. Nora Ephon also mentioned a reference film she watched before directing Sleepless in Seattle and how it inspired her to link the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan characters before they even met. “One of the movies I looked at before we shot this was a movie called  And Now My Love by Claude Lelouch. Which is about two people who also don’t meet until the very end of the movie. And what he knows in that movie is that’s he’s going to fall in love with someone who takes three lumps of sugar in her coffee. And what we were trying to come up with was a way that you would know—because of some thing that linked them— how destined they were for each other. And this apple is it as you’ll see later.”

Here’s the first apple scene. (Note the simplicity of this two-minute scene. One actress and one take.)

That scene later connects with a scene where Tom Hanks’ young son says of his dead mother, “I’m starting to forget her.” Hanks hugs him and says, “She could peel an apple in one long curly strip. The whole apple.”  I think that would qualify as what T.S. Eliot called an objective correlative. (And when that scene ends with the Joe Cocker version of Bye, Bye Blackbird it’s one powerfully emotional scene.)

No one seems to love or understand me
And all the hard luck stories they keep handing me
Where somebody shines the light
I’m coming on home tonight
1926 song Bye, Bye Blackbird
Composer Ray Henderson/ lyricist Mort Dixon

Recommended reading: Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit

Related links:
40 Days of Emotions
Making Sleepless in Seattle

Scott W. Smith

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Billy Mernit has a book called Writing the Romantic Comedy as well as a blog called Living the Romantic Comedy.

“A strong theme is the backbone of one of the 1980s’ most enduring hits, When Harry Met Sally, Rob Reiner’s helming of Nora Ephron’s script is a success largely due to its relentless plucking at the same string—the question, a cultural hot point, of whether men and women can be friends and whether a romance can be founded on friendship.”
Billy Mernit
Writing the Romantic Comedy
Pages 44-45

For more on thoughts on writing from theme read the post Writing from Theme (tip #20).

Scott W. Smith

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