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Is there a specific formula to writing the perfect romantic comedy? It does seem at first blush, impossible to put your finger on what exactly it is about a particular rom-com that makes your heart flutter. However, all is indeed fair in love and war, and some true auteurs have knackered this down to a science. Here are 4 elements that make a truly great Rom-Com.

The meet-cute

Not all rom-coms feature an epic Coup de Foudre, fancy French for the elusive phenomenon known as “love at first sight”. The immediate and electrifying attraction between (John Cusack) and (Kate Beckinsale) in Serendipity is indeed cute, but certainly does not apply to every film. Take Elizabeth’s (Keira Knightley) immediate irritation with the condescending Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) in Pride and Prejudice, for example. However, all filmmakers do have to devise an arresting interaction to introduce the two lovebirds to the audience, and perhaps each other in order to kick off their story.

The moment of realization

This is the fulcrum that every romantic comedy balances itself upon. The moment that Pat (Bradley Cooper) ran after Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) in Silver Linings Playbook. The moment that Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) races to the airport after Margaret (Sandra Bullock) in The Proposal.  It is as though a lightbulb has gone off in the main character’s head, culminating in the moment where they realize how completely, utterly and deeply in love they are with the love of their life.

The grand gesture of love

Be it Harry running down the streets of New York on New Year’s Eve openly declaring his love for Sally in Harry Met Sally, or Nick proposing to (Constance Wu) with the entire plane as his witness in Crazy Rich Asians, the grand gesture of love is what really seals the deal. It is at this climactic juncture that the main character emphatically tugs at their lover’s, and the audiences’ heartstrings.

The exception to the rule

Arguably, the best romcom challenges the conventions and the cliches of its stultifying genre. The 2009 movie, He’s just not that into you, draws the audience in with its self-deprecating charm and prescient self-reflexivity. While conventions are certainly challenged, what seals the deal is that they are not bluntly defied. The movie begins with protagonist Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) questioning the typical tropes most romantic comedies are built upon, revealing to her and the ensemble cast the unrealistic tropes that underlie their expectations of love. However, at the most satisfying conclusion, she does nevertheless reconcile with her love interest, Paul (Justin Long), who delivers this cheesy line, “you are my exception” at the very moment he affirms these tropes by declaring his love for her.

So, is there really a tried-and-tested formula to creating a perfect romantic comedy? Or is it just as inexplicable as the nature of love that these fictional masterpieces explore? I’ll let you be the judge.

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Clara Tan

Columbia Barnard '25

Clara is your typical New York foodie, sampling every Italian restaurant in Manhattan in between museum hopping and thrifting at Brooklyn ~ She is also obsessed with the latest crime series and it is her dream to watch EVERY broadway musical before she graduates ~