22 Jul 2014

ROM COM RULES - Analysis

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  More than just being romantic and having comedy, a Rom Com follows a strict formula and a set of rules.

So do the films I looked at follow the rules or not?

Films covered:

Once again, these results talk about the films chosen much more than they talk about the genre in whole.

RULE #1 - The Characters

A - The Couple

i.  Balance
Balance: (4)  Roman Holiday; Educating Rita; Sleepless in Seattle; Friends With Benefits.
Balance & other characters: (2)  Imagine Me & You; Knocked Up.
Female POV: (2)  Bridget Jones's Diary; My Best Friend's Wedding.
Female POV & other characters: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.
Male POV & other characters: (1)  Four Weddings & a Funeral.

So strictly balanced between the couple we get 40%, balance (including other characters get up to 60%).  Interestingly 30% are centred on the female party (although 10% (1 film) of those have other character calling POV), and only 10% (1 film) are male centred.

ii.  Opposites in Behaviour/Attitude
Yes - Her Repressed/Him Slob: (2)  Roman Holiday; Knocked Up.
Yes - Her slob/Him Repressed: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Yes - She Doesn't Believe in True Love/He Does: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle.
Yes - She Fears Commitment/He Doesn't: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding

Yes - Her Studious/Him Slacker: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.
Yes - Her Full Of Life/Him Alcoholic: (1)  Educating Rita.
Yes - He Doesn't Believe in True Love/He Does: (1)  Friends With Benefits.
Yes - He Fears Commitment/She Doesn't: (1)  Four Weddings & a Funeral.

Yes - Her Activist/Him Delinquent: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.

Obviously a range of (subjective) conflicting personality traits.  I've grouped the traits into vaguely "her socially acceptable/him socially unacceptible" and "her socially unacceptible/him socially acceptable".  Feel free to disagree with them, I don't necessarily, but I think it's a view.  Leaving Imagine Me & You out, and only counting 10 Things I Hate About You once (not counting when they're both outsiders), it splits to the female 55.55% of the time was more acceptable.  I think that's still within a balanced portrayal.

iii.  Opposites in Life
Vaguely - Media/Subject: (3)  Roman Holiday; Bridget Jones's Diary; Sleepless in Seattle.
Vaguely - Headhunter/Employee:  (1)  Friends With Benefits.
Class Distinction: (2)  Roman Holiday; Educating Rita.
N/A: (5)  Four Weddings & a Funeral; My Best Friend's Wedding; 10 Things I Hate About You; Imagine Me & You; Knocked Up.

So half of them are opposites in life, and so half are not.

iv.  Occupation in Romance/Media
Yes - Both publishing/news: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
Yes - Her publishing/news: (4)  Sleepless in Seattle; Four Weddings & a Funeral (formerly)Bridget Jones's Diary; Knocked Up.
Yes - Him publishing/news: (2)  Roman Holiday; Friends With Benefits.
Yes - Her Romance: (1)  Imagine Me & You.
Yes - Him ex-poet: (1) Educating Rita; 
No - Students: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.

Only one fails, because they are students.  Of the remaining 9 films, 77.78% had at least one member of the primary couple working in the media.

B - The Best Friend/Confidant

i.  "Ugly"
Yes : (2)  Bridget Jones's Diary (Jude); 10 Thing I Hate About You (Michael), some of Charle's friends in Four Weddings & a Funeral.
Yes, Beard: (2)  Roman Holiday (Irving); Sleepless in Seattle (Jay)
Yes, Overweight: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle (Jay & Becky)

ii.  Wacky
Yes: (2)  Bridget Jones's Diary (Jude); 10 Thing I Hate About You (Michael), some of Charle's friends in Four Weddings & a Funeral.
Funny: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle (Jay & Becky)
Victim: (1)  Roman Holiday (Irving)

iii.  Slutty/Sleazy
Yes: (2)  Roman Holiday (Irving); Bridget Jones's Diary (Jude, Tom), some of Charle's friends in Four Weddings & a Funeral.

iv.  Family
No Family:  (1)  Roman Holiday.
Partially: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary (Both parents); 10 Thing I Hate About You (Father & Sister)

v.  The Opposite Sex.
No Opposite Sex Friends:  (1)  Roman Holiday, some of Charle's friends in Four Weddings & a Funeral.
Yes (Gay):  (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary (Tom), two of Charle's Charle's friends in Four Weddings & a Funeral.

C - The Third Person

No Third Person: (2)  Roman Holiday; Knocked Up.
Ex Only: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You (Joey)
Fiancée: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding (Kimmy).
Spouse: (1)  Imagine Me & You (Heck)
Both: (4)  Educating Rita (Denny & Julia)Four Weddings & a Funeral (Henrietta & Hamish); Bridget Jones's Diary (Cleaver & Natasha); Sleepless in Seattle (Walter & Victoria); Friends With Benefits (changing).

So 60% have some form of current relationship with another person for at least one of the couple.

RULE #2 - There Won't Be T&A

No Nudity: (1) Educating Rita.
Skin - minor character: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Nudity - minor characters: (1)  Knocked Up.
Nightwear - Female lead: (1)  Imagine Me & You.

Underwear - Female lead: (4)  Sleepless in Seattle; Four Weddings & a Funeral (brief); Bridget Jones's Diary; My Best Friend's Wedding.
Implied - Female lead: (2)  Roman Holiday, 10 Thing I Hate About You, Friends With Benefits.
Nudity (fake) - Female lead: (1) Knocked Up, Friends With Benefits.

Butt - Male lead: (1)  Knocked Up, Friends With Benefits.

Obviously a variety of usually low-level nudity, although it does tend to increase over time.

Sex in film:
No Sex in Film: (6)  Roman HolidayEducating Rita; Sleepless in Seattle; My Best Friend's Wedding; Imagine Me & You; 10 Thing I Hate About You.
Sex (Female with Other, not male lead): (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Sex (Couple): (2)  Four Weddings & a Funeral; Knocked Up.
Sex (Couple with each other and others):  (1)   Friends With Benefits.

Very little sex in these films.  In 60% of the films the couple don't have sex with anyone on screen (although previous sex is mentioned occasionally or they share a bed with a partner).  Only 30% of the couple have sex together on screen.

RULE #3 - The Meet-Cute

Historic: (2)  Bridget Jones's Diary; My Best Friend's Wedding.
Goofy but Cute: (1)  Friends With Benefits.
Mild: (4)  Roman Holiday; Educating Rita; Four Weddings & a Funeral; Knocked Up.
Paid to Date: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You
Ends With: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle.
At a Wedding: (1)  Imagine Me & You

All have a meeting story, although 2 didn't have one in the film itself.  Cute is a matter of perspective.

RULE #4 - Circumstances

Personal Insult & Lie by third party: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Ending: (1)  Roman Holiday.
Hatred of Men: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You
Fear of Commitment: (1)  Four Weddings & a Funeral.
Never Met: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle.
One Night Stand: (1)  Knocked Up.
Engagement: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
Casual Sex: (1)  Friends With Benefits.
Married: (1)  Imagine Me & You
Alcoholism:  (1)  Educating Rita; 

Every film has something circumstance that keep the couple apart.  Then again, the films would be pretty short if they didn't.

RULE #5 - Realisation of Love

Event: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
First Kiss:  (1)  Roman Holiday.
Her Drunk at Party: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You
First Sight: (2)  Sleepless in Seattle; Four Weddings & a Funeral;
Out of His League: (1)  Knocked Up.
A Shared Moment: (1)  Friends With Benefits.

Voice Only: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle.
Confession:  (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
First Kiss:  (1)  Roman Holiday.
A Shared Moment: (1)  Friends With Benefits.
First Sight: (1)  Imagine Me & You (both)

RULE #6 - The Break-Up

She breaks up with him:  (2)  Bridget Jones's Diary, 10 Thing I Hate About You; Knocked Up; Friends With Benefits.
He breaks up with her: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
She breaks up with her: (1)  Imagine Me & You.
Not Together: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle; Four Weddings & a Funeral.
End of Film: (1)  Roman Holiday.

A:  The Reason
Fight with Third Person: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
The Circumstance: (1)  Roman Holiday; 10 Thing I Hate About You; Imagine Me & You
Hormones: (1)  Knocked Up.
Family: (1)  Knocked Up.
Loves Someone Else: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
Overheard Comments: (1)  Friends With Benefits.

B:  The Event
Birthday Dinner: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
The Prom: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.
Doctor's Appointment: (1)  Knocked Up.
Wedding Breakfast: (2)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
No Event: (1)  Imagine Me & You

C:  Humiliation
No, but many others: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Mild: (2)  My Best Friend's Wedding; Knocked Up.
Personal Humiliation: (1)  Friends With Benefits.

D:  But...
Based on Lie: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
She didn't know important information: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.

E:  The Turmoil
No Man Turmoil: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.

RULE #7 - Separated Forever.

Engagement: (1)  Four Weddings & a Funeral; Bridget Jones's Diary.
Wedding: (1)  Four Weddings & a Funeral; My Best Friend's Wedding.
Duty: (1)  Roman Holiday.
Move to Another Country: (2)  Roman Holiday; Four Weddings & a Funeral; Bridget Jones's Diary; Educating Rita.
Leave Town: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You; Friends With Benefits.
Long Holiday: (1)  Imagine Me & You
Nothing: (1)  Knocked Up.

RULE #8 - Redemption

A:  Sacrifice
Success: (1)  Roman Holiday.
Fear of Commitment: (2)   My Best Friend's Wedding; Friends With Benefits.
The Slacker Life: (1)  Knocked Up.

B:  Unusual Transport
Unrelated: (1)  Roman Holiday; Friends With Benefits.
Van: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
Climbing on Vehicles: (1)  Imagine Me & You

C:  Stunt
Pre-End: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Minor: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding; Imagine Me & You.

D:  Romantic Gesture.
Aborted Speech: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Hidden Conversation: (1)  Roman Holiday.
Speech (wronged party): (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.
Unrelated: (1)  10 Thing I Hate About You.
Weddings: (1)  Four Weddings & a Funeral.
Telling off Doctor: (1)  Knocked Up.
Flash Mob: (1)  Friends With Benefits.
Speech in Public: (1)  Imagine Me & You

Snowy Streets in Underwear: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.

RULE #9 - Happily Ever After

Ends With Kissing: (5)  Four Weddings & a Funeral; Bridget Jones's Diary; 10 Thing I Hate About You; Imagine Me & You; Friends With Benefits.
They Meet: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle.
Montage: (1)  Knocked Up.
No Happy Ending: (1)  My Best Friend's Wedding.
Separated Forever: (2)  Roman Holiday; Educating Rita.

Only 2 films don't end with the assumption of them living happily ever after, so 80% happily ever after.

RULE #10 - Sequels

Has Sequel: (1)  Bridget Jones's Diary.
Spin-Off: (1)  Knocked Up.
Remake: (1)  Roman Holiday.
References Others: (1)  Sleepless in Seattle; Friends With Benefits.
Rom Com Regulars: (8)  Roman Holiday; Sleepless in Seattle; Four Weddings & a Funeral; Bridget Jones's Diary; My Best Friend's Wedding; 10 Thing I Hate About You; Imagine Me & You; Knocked Up.
No Sequel: (1)  Educating Rita.

Only Bridget Jones's Diary. has a sequel, although most of the actors do regularly appear as leads in other Rom Coms.

~ DUG.
Remember to do the survey to determine the fourth genre to be tested.
Check out the schedule for upcoming Film Rules films to be reviewed.
Also a question for the comments...  Do people prefer the alternating between 2 sets of rules or would they like to see one set finished before the next starts


  1. Still not sure why Educating Rita is in Rom Com since Rita/Susan is a lesbian so there can't be any romance between her and Frank. But it definitely sets itself up as a rom-com and the fact that it isn't is one of the reasons I figure I like it, especially since I like to very few of them.

  2. I don't buy the "Rita is a lesbian." She certainly said that Rubyfruit Jungle changed her life, but although it's about a lesbian it's also a coming of age story about getting an education. She certainly didn't leave or (if taking the pill is anything to go by) stop having sex with her husband because of this change. Of course, the film could just be playing coy (it was the 80s, after all) but plays were usually more open with such topics.
    That said, I like to test the rules to breaking point. Even if she's straight or bi this isn't a rom-com but, as you say, sets itself up as one. It's interesting to see the results either way.