one of my favorite movies ever is frankie & johnny (1991), adapted from a fairly popular stage play, starring al pacino and michelle pfeiffer. it’s technically a romantic comedy, but i feel more like a drama; romcoms of the ’90s are generally unrealistic portrayals of successful courtships and exaggerated feelings (pretty woman; notting hill; sleepless in seattle), while the current-day romcoms tend to be cynical stories — self-aware of the genre — about the ambivalence of said courtship (the break up; knocked up; the ugly truth), usually featuring more empowered or even abrasive females.
frankie & johnny remains unrealistic in its sentimentality and patriarchal gaze (i.e. conquest of the muse), but doesn’t gloss over the “real life” problems of trying to fall in love. there’s concern that johnny may have an STD, and frankie was physically abused in a previous relationship. it’s basically about a guy who gets out of prison and goes after a waitress there, which seems really boring, but it’s unabashedly romantic (yet “real”), all within a grim scorcese-ish new york city backdrop. there’s also a gay character (played by nathan lane), which is important if we’re going to see gay people as normal neighbors.
one of my favorite scenes is when johnny tries to get frankie to go home with him after a date, towards which she expresses ambivalence, given that she’s resigned to a life of VCR and peanut butter (in the play, the waitress is fat); anyways, he finally kisses her and a florist’s truck opens up to expose a bunch of flowers for tomorrow. it’s very manipulative, emotionally simplistic, and “cheesey,” but i think we look to romcoms to find reprieve, with a tinge of defeated sarcasm, from our collective unrealised fantasies. i wish a romantic comedy would happen to me. it would take me the duration of the film to realize “she was the one,” then i would take a stressful cab ride to the airport and scream her name in arabic as the guards took me down