With all this talk of A-Teams, evil exes, airbending and karate, I thought I’d grab a couple of quiet hours this evening to watch a RomCom. Admittedly, this term is not always used with affection and when I see one it’s always with the apprehension that it will be money and time mis-spent – after all, the reviewing world is always telling me how inferior they are. But tonight I saw The Rebound, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha, a film which hasn’t been given any publicity at all that I can see and is destined to only enjoy just a week’s release in much of the UK. And also a film described rather patronisingly by a (male) reviewer in the Scotsman as ‘another faintly insulting rom-com promoting a marketing man’s idea of what women really want from movies’.
I find myself rather insulted by that comment – as if, as a woman, it makes me weak, stereotypical, stupid even, to admit to liking a RomCom. Well, I’m afraid I must report to those male reviewers who know best about what films I should like that not only do I like the odd RomCom, I also thoroughly enjoyed The Rebound. At least as far as I’m concerned, maybe the ‘marketing man’ guessed right about what this woman wants from the movies.
Perhaps it is true that some films are aimed at men and others are aimed at women and only long-suffering partners endure both but I do believe that the romantic comedy (with its traditional plotting and characterisation) is on to a bit of a no-win situation from the outset if its (mosty male) reviewers believe they know best about what women want. So speaking personally, and not for all women, I have a weakness for a good RomCom just as I have a weakness for a good film with aliens in it.
On to The Rebound…
I have to admit to a certain distrust of Catherine Zeta-Jones. I remember The Darling Buds of May with rosy-spectacled nostalgic affection but after that, since she headed stateside, I haven’t had much interest in her movies, including Chicago, which I didn’t like at all. However, The Rebound touched a chord, arguably because Catherine’s character Sandy is exactly the same age as me, in a situation I can imagine myself in.
I would argue that if a woman is to see a film about a woman of her own age in a situation in which she can imagine herself in then a RomCom is the perfect format for it – otherwise you would drown in tears at the tragedy of it all. But the romantic comedy format enables one to laugh at the awfulness of the initial situation, while enjoying a clearly unrealistic and simplified happy ending. Wrongs are righted and the heroine is rewarded for her suffering with the ideal image of love spread out before her. In this romanticised world, women can get what women want. After all, that’s not always the case in the real world.
Interestingly, in The Rebound, part of the achievement for Sandy is achieving professional excellence – freed from her cheating, unrealised (and not needing to be realised he’s that nasty) husband, Sandy heads back to the workplace and she reaches the top, not by trampling on colleagues but by working with other women who befriend her and not see her as a threat – for their men or for their job. Sandy believes she is in control but underneath lies fear and aggression and vulnerability.
The other side of the coin is 25-year-old Arum who comes from an unequally unrealised set of circumstances but who now finds himself falling in love with a beautiful woman with two children he can relate to just as much as he wishes to relate to her. Here’s the odd thing for me – I can also empathise with him. As I get older, the harder it is for me to cast off ‘childish things’ and I am more of a geek now for computer games and Harry Potter and grabbing life than I ever was when I was younger. That’s because technology is only just catching up with what I want from it and because the older I get the less serious I realise my life should be. It’s hard enough without adding extra burdens of responsibility to the load.
The Rebound’s story works through its inevitable course – including an ending which some have found contrived but I found satisfying (as someone who spent their entire 20s travelling the world and understands that this is not just a dramatic cliche). The possible dates along the way made me laugh – I never usually find toilet humour quite as funny as in this film but that’s mostly because I was squirming in embarrassment along with Sandy. I will never look at Chiropractors in the same way again – I certainly don’t want to get within an arm’s length of them. I can find RomCom children rather irritatingly stereotyped, but not in The Rebound. They exhibit the annoying characteristics of children caught in a situation they don’t like and frightens them.
If you see a good RomCom, as I believe this was, then it will make you laugh and cry at the same time – judging by the state of the audience I saw this with, they’d go along with that. If a film makes you look at yourself, as this film did for me, then I’d say that’s a plus point too. Maybe it’s true that this film is only aimed at 40-year-old women – in that case, I’m glad to claim a film for myself.
Pictures from IMDb.