A guide to the rom-coms of summer 2018, based on classic tropes
Isn't it romantic?
It's time to say goodbye to a summer of love at the movies. Audiences have spent the last few months falling for a string of swoony films that have signaled, loud and clear, that the rom-com is back in a big way — and with it, all the familiar types, beats, and contrivances that make the genre what it is. Read on for our breakdown of the latest additions to the romantic-comedy canon, graded (from one pierced heart to five) on how well they reimagine the hallmarks of some of our old favorites.
Set It Up
Claire Scanlon's Netflix sensation was self-aware enough to knowingly check off as many genre tropes as possible, and we love it all the more for it. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell star as a pair of overworked assistants (to high-powered executives played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs, respectively) who "Cyrano" their bosses, hoping that a romance might be just the thing to distract those demanding jerks from abusing their employees for awhile. But guess who actually falls in love?!
THE TROPE: Beleaguered assistant/aspiring journalist
GRADE: The abuse Harper (Deutch) and Charlie (Powell) suffer is enough to give anyone Miranda Priestly PTSD — and Harper's dreams of being a sports reporter place her among the greats of rom-com journo heroines. 💘💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: New York City, star of the show
GRADE: Harry and Sally's autumnal stroll through Central Park can't be beat, but Harper and Charlie's swagged-out Yankees game is an effective shoutout to the city. 💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Matchmaking!
GRADE: Harper and Charlie's efforts may not pay off quite as well as they do in Clueless, but they get an A for effort. 💘💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: The last-minute airport run
GRADE: Played for irony, and without a soaring Love Actually soundtrack. 💘💘
Crazy Rich Asians
When Rachel (Constance Wu) goes to Singapore with her boyfriend (Henry Golding) for his best friend's wedding, she's shocked to discover that his family is rich — crazy rich — and that they might not approve of her. Jon M. Chu's critically lauded adaptation of Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel has made headlines for being the first big contemporary Hollywood picture with an all-Asian cast since 1992's The Joy Luck Club — and for staring down Mark Wahlberg to win the game of chicken that is the opening-weekend box office. Bok bok, bitch.
THE TROPE: $$$ Makeover montage $$$
GRADE: While it doesn't quite hit that "Big mistake. Big. Huge" high note, Rachel gets her Pretty Woman moment with a little help from her friends (bonus points for the Cantonese cover of "Material Girl" that plays throughout). 💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Disapproving in-laws
GRADE: Brush up on your mahjong or else step aside, Monster-in-Law. 💘💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Earth-shattering evening gown reveal!
GRADE: Way up there with Kate Hudson in yellow. 💘💘💘💘💘
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Ol Parker's prequel/sequel to 2008's Mamma Mia stars Lily James as a younger version of Meryl Streep's Donna during the summer she went to Greece, had three brief affairs, and got pregnant by one of them. My, my, how can we resist it?
THE TROPE: American girl goes to Europe and ~sets herself free~
GRADE: Donna opted for beside the Aegean Sea rather than Under the Tuscan Sun, but was no worse off for it. 💘💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Cher!
GRADE: Thank you for the music, Cher, specifically for the instantly iconic ABBA moment that was your "Fernando." But Moonstruck struck Oscar gold. 💘💘💘💘
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Another Netflix release, Susan Johnson's adaptation of Jenny Han's novel stars Lana Condor as Lara Jean, a shy teenage girl whose secret love letters, written over the course of years for her personal self-expression and intended for the eyes of no one else, are mysteriously delivered to all their addressees. In an effort to throw off her latest, most forbidden crush, Lara Jean pretends to date another letter recipient. One guess as to how that goes!
THE TROPE: Sweet, shy girl comes out of her shell
GRADE: Highly satisfying, but not quite an Amélie-level transformation. 💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Fake relationship
GRADE: To all the Drive Me Crazys we've loved before: Sorry, you've been dethroned. 💘💘💘💘💘
Rose Byrne stars in Jesse Peretz's adaptaion of Nick Hornby's novel as Annie, the frustrated girlfriend to an obsessive superfan of Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a musician who mysteriously quit making music and vanished from the public eye years prior. After Annie writes a scathing review of a newly uncovered, long-lost Tucker Crowe album, the artist himself reaches out to her and they start a singular correspondence.
THE TROPE: Love letters (er, emails)
GRADE: Email was just so new and full of romantic possibility when You've Got Mail's anticipatory dial-up entered our hearts! But Annie and Tucker are sufficiently charming letter writers. 💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Celebrity romance
GRADE: Even if Tucker Crowe wasn't a stubbornly unglamorous celebrity, it would be hard for anything to compete with being just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. 💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Irritating music obsessive
GRADE: At least in High Fidelity he liked more than one artist. 💘💘
The Kissing Booth
Vince Marcello's teen rom-com became something of a phenomenon when it hit Netflix in May. When BFFs-since-childhood Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney) build a kissing booth for their school carnival, the mutual attraction between Elle and Lee's older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi), culminates in a blindfolded smooch at the somehow-school-sanctioned event. Their romance is forbidden, however, because Elle and Lee have an enduring tradition of adhering to a long list of mostly arbitrary friendship rules, one of which is never to date one of the other's relatives. Whatever shall our star-crossed lovers do?
THE TROPE: Kissing in the rain
GRADE: It's not Breakfast at Tiffany's, but it's not bad. 💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Longstanding pact with a best friend of the opposite sex
GRADE: My Best Friend's Wedding at least had the complicating factor of Julia Roberts being in love with Dermot Mulroney. Lee is outraged by Elle's relationship with Noah just because they decided, one time, that it should not be allowed. 💘
THE TROPE: Embarrassing but romantically propulsive teen drunkenness at unchaperoned party
GRADE: Like 10 Things I Hate About You, but make it weirdly sexual. 💘💘💘
THE TROPE: An actual kissing booth!
GRADE: Look out, She's the Man! 💘💘💘💘💘
Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen are a quartet of literary BFFs whose love lives are spiced up when one of them (Fonda, naturally) chooses Fifty Shades of Grey for their next book club book in Bill Holderman's crowd-pleasing over-50 ensemble rom-com.
THE TROPE: Old(er) people deserve love too!
GRADE: Sometimes It's Complicated, but sometimes it's as simple as letting Andy García fly you around in a rickety old plane. 💘💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: The meet-cute
GRADE: Keaton wasn't finished with flustered first meetings after Annie Hall charmed Alvy Singer. 💘💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Book club
GRADE: Not just for Jane Austen fans! 💘💘💘💘
Gillian Jacobs stars in Alex Richanbach's Netflix rom-com about an overworked young woman who takes her two best friends on a work trip to Europe, where she pursues a dreamy EDM DJ (Richard Madden).
THE TROPE: Raunchy girls' trip!
GRADE: A Girls Trip to remember — it just could have used a little more grapefruit. 💘💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Workaholic letting loose
GRADE: Whether a publicist or a Wedding Planner, we've pretty must had enough of all-work-and-no-play rom-com heroines. But at least Jacobs' Harper really does let loose. 💘💘💘
Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder star as the brother and the ex of the groom, respectively, attending a destination wedding in Victor Levin's rom-com. After first projecting their frustrations onto each other through a lot of negative banter, the duo's mutual misanthropy dissolves to begrudging attraction.
THE TROPE: They hate each other… until they don't!
GRADE: Lizzy and Darcy. Bridget Jones and… also Darcy. But Winona and Keanu? As if we could ever believe those two aren't absolutely destined to be together! 💘💘💘
THE TROPE: Love at a wedding, in spite of the wedding
GRADE: We get it, weddings can be kind of terrible, and hideously expensive, and going through all the stupid motions is a genuine outrage. Bridesmaids pretty much nailed that for us. 💘💘💘
Rob Greenberg's remake of Garry Marshall's 1987 film stars Eugenio Derbez as a rich man with amnesia and and Anna Faris as the working-class woman who convinces him they're married (gender-swapping the rich girl/poor man roles originally filled by Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell).
THE TROPE: Amnesia
GRADE: Nothing leads to love like having zero memory and another person's face in front of you! But when it's a manipulation tool rather than a romantic obstacle (à la 50 First Dates), it's slightly less romantic. 💘💘
THE TROPE: Literally everything from the original Overboard
GRADE: Gender-swapping was a smart move, but there's no replacing the authentic chemistry of Hawn and Russell. 💘💘💘
BONUS: The BFFs
A small army of millennials have taken up the mantle of Judy Greer (center), who owned the role of rom-com heroine's BFF in the aughts. Because anyone going through the ringer of falling adorably in love on the big screen is going to need a good girlfriend (or a few) to keep her sane. Forget lovestruck hearts, these sparkling ladies score a 💖💖💖💖💖