Love is a cliché

No, this isn’t about my relationship with TYG—the title is a quote from Roger Ebert. Discussing one film he liked (and I no longer have the book of reviews to recollect which) he commented that a friend had dismissed it as a cliched romance. Ebert’s response was that “love is always a cliché—what makes it interesting is that the players keep constantly changing.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to that. To anyone who likes a particular formula—vampire PI, “cozy” mysteries, Gothic romance, Tolkienesque fantasy—the differences when you plug in a new set of characters can be huge (in some cases it may be all that distinguishes one series from another), even if they seem all alike to non-fans.
And even though “romance movie” is more genre than formula (I’ll get into what I think the difference is in another post), the same is true: It’s the characters, their lives and their situation that can make even a stock plot arc such as boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back work.
Of course, my friend Ross and I have observed many times, sometimes the characters don’t change enough: “It’s formulaic” may mean the plot was stock, but it may also mean that the characters didn’t engage us enough to overcome the formula.
And the “it’s a cliché” applies to other things besides love. Which brings me to Waitress.
This 2007 movie stars Keri Russell as a dolled-down waitress in a small restaurant, dreaming of saving enough money to break away from her abusive husband. Problems, of course, crop up: She’s pregnant (he got her drunk one night) and then she meets and falls for new doctor in town Nathan Filion, whose married (not that it stops him jumping her).
Quirky Southern towns like this are a cliché, a subgenre of the “Southern” (which I think is a genre just as much as the Western). Other subgenre members include Miss Firecracker, Crimes of the Heart, Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader Mom and TV series such as Evening Shade or The Andy Griffith Show. Heck, Waitress even has Andy Griffith along as a crotchety-but-lovable coot.
Waitress got wonderful reviews, but it felt very canned, like I’d seen every character and situation a hundred times before. The players changed … but not enough to make me like it.


Filed under Movies, Writing

4 responses to “Love is a cliché

  1. Pingback: Genre vs Formula « Fraser Sherman’s Blog

  2. Pingback: Movies and Books: The Christmas Stuff | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: One waitress works, another doesn’t: Idea vs. execution | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Let us sample some Christmas treacle | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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