Such films forever put us on the threshold of the wedding chapel, only to wag a finger and say, “Uh-uh, not so fast.” Quicker than you can say, “runaway bride,” she’s off with a new guy. Since we’re not sitting on the groom’s family side of the church, we’re allowed to applaud.
Audiences are led to believe the new romance is the real thing, even if the new couple only just met. The pairing is even more a sure bet if they're fighting for most of the 90 minutes. (See 10 I Hate You/I Love You Movies) Don't worry about the jilted one. He'll be OK. Sometimes the writers even toss in a replacement love for him.
Why is this so common? Well, story requires conflict – or so the university extension writing instructors tell us – and having two love interests for one character is a pretty good start for conflict.
You could hate yourself for loving these formula films, but don't bother. Just ignore what the self-help gurus say about not being able to build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness. Enjoy!
- Runaway Bride (2009) – Hey, initially, Maggie Carpenter just jilts, without finding someone new, but in the end, she meets Richard Gere and who wouldn’t pick him over, uh, the old fiancé whose name I can't remember.
- Leap Year (2010) – What did I say about not knowing each other and fighting for most of the movie? That’s what Amy Adams and Matthew Goode do for most of this ridiculous film, which involves slogging across Ireland together so she can propose to her boyfriend and then not go through with it. Irritating though she may be here, I find Adams charming.
- The Wedding Planner (2001) – How conveeeenient! What better way to snag a husband that become a wedding planner and grab a doctor when one comes to you for help getting hitched? Of course, Jennifer Lopez didn’t mean for it to happen that way, but the screenwriter did.
- Sweet Home Alabama (2002) – I’m so confused. This one adds an ingredient to the old formula: The guy who breaks up the happy engagement turns out to already be married to the bride-to-be. This time they do know each other and that’s why they’re fighting for most of the film. The film has one of my favorite heart-squeezer lines: “So I can kiss you anytime I want.”
- Letters to Juliet (2010) – Another Sparring Strangers plot. Sophie goes to Italy on a pre-wedding honeymoon with Victor, but spends most of her time at odds with Charlie. But there’s a charming counter plot involving an unrequited first love that turns out to be the real thing. Keep faith in long-lasting love, this seems to say. And vice versa: the new love is the real love. The film wants to have its cannoli and eat it, too.
- Sleepless in Seattle (1993) – Is there really a guy like Walter, Meg Ryan’s generous beau, ring in hand, who is willing to give her up on Valentine’s Day so she can pursue the guy she really, really, really doesn’t know? There is in Rom Com Land. Of course, you know Ryan and Tom Hanks really belong together because she goes and does it all over again, leaving another guy for Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail.”
- Parent Trap (1998) – Is this a chick flick? It’s really a kid movie, with a romance built in. Dad’s about to get married to Cruella, as the twins say, but they’re determined to get him together with, well, Mom. I’ll take this remake over the original with Hayley Mills and I’m gonna say it was Lindsay Lohan’s best film. She was so adorable. Peaking at the age of 12. Sad.
- Imagine Me & You (2005) – I missed the beginning of this lesser-known English film but I’m going to include it for three reasons. One, I've seen enough to know I really like it. It's well done in an understated fashion. Two, it takes the old plot and torques it. This time, the bride discovers her real love at the wedding and the jilting takes place when she's already married. Three, it adds another complication. Her new love is another woman. Too often, rom com (and the Chick Flick Guy) forget non-heterosexual love. Here it gets its due.