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She's smart, she's sassy, and her mistakes can be captured in print or on film. Her job can take her anywhere, introduce her to anyone. Occasionally, she has deadlines.
EXAMPLE: In 13 Going on 30, Jenna (Jennifer Garner) is an editor at a women's magazine that needs to be redesigned, so she calls on her old friend Matty the photographer (Mark Ruffalo).
SEE ALSO: Writers in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Devil Wears Prada, Never Been Kissed, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally..., and Hitch; Talk/news-show employees in Little Black Book, Someone Like You, Bridget Jones's Diary, and Knocked Up.
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The Last-Minute Sprint
You don't know what you've got till it's gone. Or, rather, almost gone. If you run real fast (motorized transportation acceptable), you can still catch it.
EXAMPLE: In Love, Actually, young Sam (Thomas Sangster) races through an airport — a popular setting for the resolution of this particular cliché — to tell Joanna (Olivia Olson) that she's the one.
SEE ALSO: Harry (Billy Crystal) running to Sally (Meg Ryan) on New Year's Eve in When Harry Met Sally...; Ben (Matthew McConaughey) chasing after airport-bound Andie (Kate Hudson) on his motorcycle in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) crossing the field at Fenway Park to get to Ben (Jimmy Fallon) in Fever Pitch; Dean (Kurt Russell) and his boys boarding a Coast Guard boat to honk at Joanna (Goldie Hawn) in Overboard; and Bridget (Renée Zellweger) dashing out of her house in her underwear to catch up to Mark (Colin Firth) in Bridget Jones's Diary.
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Do You Believe In Magic?
Sometimes, finding that special someone isn't special enough, and a truly magical — and totally unexplainable — element has to be introduced to the plot.
EXAMPLE: In Simply Irresistible, chef Amanda Shelton (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has the power to make diners feel whatever she felt while making their meals. Thanks to a magical crab.
SEE ALSO: A freeway sign giving Harris (Steve Martin) love advice in L.A. Story; a mannequin (Kim Cattrall) coming to life in Mannequin; the love of a mermaid (Daryl Hannah) that allows Allen (Tom Hanks) to breathe underwater in Splash; the tear in the space-time continuum that brings a 19th-century duke into modern Manhattan in Kate & Leopold; the Zoltar machine that ages Josh (Tom Hanks) in Big; and Nick (Mel Gibson) being able to hear women's thoughts in What Women Want.
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Dogs are man's best friend, an extra dose of cute whenever the script needs it, and creatures that can tell us when a questionable character is A-OK.
EXAMPLE: Photographer Brian (Ben Chaplin) calls in to the radio show of animal expert Abby (Janeane Garofalo) because he can't get the roller skates off a dog in The Truth About Cats & Dogs. The dog later brings Abby roller skates to wear and leads her on a leash to Ben.
SEE ALSO: The dog that watches Internet porn in Because I Said So; the dog that warms up to Melvin (Jack Nicholson) in As Good as It Gets; the dog that Trent (Jon Stewart) wakes up in bed next to in Playing by Heart; the dog that interrupts the kiss at the end of You've Got Mail; and all of Must Love Dogs.
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Working Girl...Needs Balance
EXAMPLE: We're gonna have to quote EW critic Lisa Schwarzbaum here, because we weren't paid to see New in Town: ''Renee Zellweger teeters in high heels as a brittle singleton executrix who relocates to a Fargo-adjacent burg and discovers the virtues of 'square' Christian values.''
SEE ALSO: The ad exec-turned-baby applesauce maker (Diane Keaton) in Baby Boom; the home swappers (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) in The Holiday; the big-city fashion designer (Reese Witherspoon) who returns to her roots and coon dog cemetery in Sweet Home Alabama; and the movie star (Julia Roberts) who's just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her in Notting Hill.
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Mr. And Mrs. Right In Front Of You
Always the friend, never the boy- or girlfriend...until the end of the movie.
EXAMPLE: In Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, Pete (Topher Grace) knows all six of Rosalee's (Kate Bosworth) smiles. She just never stops to think that she knows all five of his.
SEE ALSO: Tom (Patrick Dempsey) and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) in Made of Honor; Eddie (Hugh Jackman) and Jane (Ashley Judd) in Someone Like You; Charlie (Steve Martin) and Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) in Roxanne; Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Keith (Eric Stoltz) in Some Kind of Wonderful; and Abby (Janeane Garofalo) and Brian (Ben Chaplin) in The Truth About Cats & Dogs.
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Apparently, the best/easiest way to make a woman seem vulnerable/single is to have her fall on her butt or walk face-first into something. The pratfall epidemic is truly painful.
EXAMPLE: In Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget (Renée Zellweger) slides down a firemen's pole onto her bottom (and a camera); in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, she parachutes into a pigpen and slides off the roof while spying on Mark (Colin Firth).
SEE ALSO: Jessica Alba in Good Luck Chuck; Amanda Bynes in What a Girl Wants; Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed; Monica Potter in Head Over Heels; Hilary Swank in P.S. I Love You; Anna Faris in The House Bunny; Brittany Murphy in Little Black Book; and Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries.
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It's amazing what discovering makeup can do for a woman in 90 minutes.
EXAMPLE: In The Mirror Has Two Faces, Gregory (Jeff Bridges) marries Rose (Barbra Streisand) because he wants a woman he truly likes, but doesn't lust after. Rose realizes she's settled and does some major lifestyle changes and cosmetics shopping while Gregory is on a book tour, and he just has to learn to love her even if she is hot.
SEE ALSO: Abby (Janeane Garofalo) in The Truth About Cats & Dogs; Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) in She's All That; Gracie (Sandra Bullock) in Miss Congeniality; Josie (Drew Barrymore) in Never Been Kissed; Toula (Nia Vardalos) in My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Kiki (Julia Roberts) in America's Sweethearts; and Mia (Anne Hathaway) in The Princess Diaries.
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The Lonely Montage
This either occurs at the start of the movie to show us how sad someone's life is, quickly, or two-thirds through the movie, when said person has loved and (momentarily) lost.
EXAMPLE: Notting Hill almost gets you to feel sad for a man (Hugh Grant) who dated a hot movie star (Julia Roberts), because when they part, he still has to go watch her space movie and see her face on a bus. He also has to walk so long that we see the seasons change.
SEE ALSO: Cher (Alicia Silverstone) walking in Clueless; Bridget (Renée Zellweger) eating directly out of a jar in Bridget Jones's Diary; and Harry (Billy Crystal) reading the last page of a book in When Harry Met Sally....
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Ben Stone (Seth Rogen)
Knocked Up (2007)
Um, who's that dood over in the side yard, smoking a doobie with his friends and listening to Old Dirty Bastard?
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The guy has been drooling over the girl since the opening credits, and now she's drunk/angry/insane and throwing herself at him. But he just...can't....do it. Because he loves her. Because he cares about her too much. Because... Oh, give us a break. He'd totally do it.
EXAMPLE: When Peter (Jason Segel) finally gets Sarah (Kristen Bell) back in his bed in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he can't quite rise to the occasion.
SEE ALSO: The Cutting Edge, Superbad.
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Schlubby Guy, Pretty Girl
A close cousin to the ''Fat Guy, Skinny Wife'' rule of sitcoms, this applies to movies where a superhot girl falls for a guy totally below her league because she learns what a nice guy he is. When was the last time a schlubby girl got a hot guy?
EXAMPLE: Kevin James' meek accountant wins the heart of the überbabe played by Amber Valleta in Hitch.
SEE ALSO: Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in Roxanne; and Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up.
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Rom-coms don't feature a lot of car chases, but there are still plenty of hair-raising highway scenes thanks to daffy heroines who can't stay in their lane to save their lives.
EXAMPLE: Annie (Diane Keaton) in Annie Hall was a terror behind the wheel of her VW Bug.
SEE ALSO: Kimberly Wallace (Cameron Diaz) in My Best Friend's Wedding.
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In a romantic comedy, love isn't true unless it's professed in front of a group of people...the bigger the better.
EXAMPLE: In Never Been Kissed, Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) makes her beau (Michael Vartan) prove his love to her by necking on the pitcher's mound in front of a crowd of baseball fans.
SEE ALSO: Fever Pitch.
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Eating For Two. Or Three...
Our guess is the average rom-com heroine weighs somewhere around a buck-ten. So how come these gals always seem to have the appetite of a team of football players?
EXAMPLE: Working for gajillionaire George Wade (Hugh Grant) must burn a lot of calories, but nobody could order as much Chinese food as Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) does in Two Weeks Notice and still keep her figure.
SEE ALSO: Miss Congeniality.
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Egregious Girl Bonding
Gal pals in rom-coms have a tendency to prove their friendship with elaborate, embarrassing activities that usually involve music.
EXAMPLE: The infamous midnight margarita scene in Practical Magic, set to Harry Nilsson's ''Coconut.''
SEE ALSO: Sex and the City.
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Singing Into Objects
Shakespeare said, ''All the world's a stage.'' But in rom-coms, it's more like one giant karaoke booth, where anything from a hairbrush to a spoon (preferably yanked out of a pint of ice cream) can turn into a microphone for an impromptu song.
EXAMPLE: There are many stages of grief, but we're pretty sure singing Judy Garland into a hairbrush — like the recently widowed Holly (Hilary Swank) does in P.S. I Love You — isn't one of them.
SEE ALSO: Bridget Jones's Diary.
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