Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happily Ever After ?????

It’s Valentine’s Day season again.  Whenever I watch a movie about boy meeting girl, the staple of the Romantic Comedy/Drama genre, I always wonder what happened after the happy couple got together.  We, the audience, assume that they all live happily ever after, because this is of course why we watch those kinda movies.
It is easier to write a story with a happy ending because it is expected and you know what’s at the end of the road before you get there.  It is much more difficult to defy every-ones’ expectations and show the princess and her prince as just ordinary folk, who end up with ordinary problems and heartache despite their fairy tale meeting, courtship, and eventual coupling.
There are your exceptions of course, and they I think are interesting and sometimes just as entertaining as the “happily ever after” scenarios; the well written, well acted, and sometimes satisfying, not so happy ending.
“Mrs. Doubtfire” comes to mind, I was totally shocked when the divorced parents didn’t end up back together, but it WAS more realistic.  How brave was the writer to choose that ending?  In “Casablanca” the guy doesn’t get the girl, but he gets the consolation prize; a good friend instead.
“Prime” and “The Break Up” are also good examples of recent Rom Coms that don’t finish up with the right people ending up together.  Though to be fair, the ending does suggest that they COULD end up together.  
As a writer I think it is a hard choice to go for the non-traditional ending.  I am torn between being realistic, and giving the reader (or watcher) the “feel good” payoff to the story.  In comedy it is a lot easier.  You should at least try to stay within the parameters of real life.  Folks die, move away, loose interest, or find someone else.  That’s life, which doesn’t make for good comedy usually. 
I do know that as the watcher/reader I do LIKE the happy ending.  Even though I don’t KNOW for sure they will be happy ever after, at least at the end of the story, that we are privy to, it's all good.  I don’t care for stories as much when the guy doesn’t get the girl.  “War of the Roses” made me uncomfortable.  “P.S. I Love You” “Terms Of Endearment” and “Sweet November” were heart breaking, and even though I was glad I saw it (Because I LOVE ALL movies) I know I probably would not want to watch it again.
So the question is……Have you seen a Romantic movie, (or read a story,) without a happy ending, that was GREAT and you would watch over and over again?

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. I love watching "When Harry met Sally" over and over again for the happy ending.

    I personally am a softie for happy endings, so all of my stories have them. For a non happy ending to work for me, it has to be really good and hold promise of something else.

    I also found War of the Roses disturbing.