One of the reasons Hollywood has had trouble with romantic comedies in recent years is because there are few places to go with the genre. Successful rom coms are now more along the lines of The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up. These are not true romantic comedies. They are hybrids, grafting on broad and big comedy memes and stars to the romantic comedy genre. Movies such as When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle are rapidly becoming films of the past only.
There are some financial reasons for this. Movie studios are making fewer pictures, and you generally need major star power to sell a romantic comedy. Horror and thriller can sell without stars because audiences see those movies for the plot, not the characters. But with rom coms, people want to see Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fall in love, as opposed to unknown performers.
In keeping with the dollars and cents angle, I think another reason we don’t see as many romantic comedies at the mainstream level is because studios have tapped out the genre. They don’t know where to take it, and, being risk averse, don’t want to take chances on fresh ideas and new directions.
It’s fallen to the independent level of filmmaking to bring us truly original ideas in the romantic comedy category. Last year, I reviewed a smart, romantic comedy titled Miss Dial that gave us an interesting take on the genre. And now, we have another well done effort under the title It’s Not You, It’s Me.
The writer-director, Nathan Ives, had a budget of only $180,000 to work with. You might as well call that no-budget in the age of $100 million movies. Despite budget limitations, Ives produces a well-made and engaging film with a cast of veteran players—most notably Vivica A. Fox.
Fans of 1990s television may remember the sitcom Herman’s Head, in which a man’s thoughts and feelings are laid bare in every episode—literally! In all of Herman’s encounters, we not only see his reactions and hear his words, but we are launched inside his head where the Id, the Ego, the Superego, and a few others personify the various aspects of his psyche.
It’s Not You, It’s Me runs with this paradigm and takes it a step farther. In the movie, Dave (Ross McCall), a neurotic, is dating Carrie (Joelle Carter). Each of them has five or more voices competing in their heads, and each voice represents a part of their personality. There’s the male urge to womanize, the female defense mechanism, the little child in all of us…and on. A lineup of television and film veterans play all these voices—Vivica Fox being the most noteworthy—as Dave breaks up with Carrie, realizes he has made a mistake, and attempts to win her back.
The movie is not flawless. The voices in the heads of the actors seemed to be balanced between Dave and Carrie, but the movie’s thrust is that Dave is the one in need of therapy and growth. This makes for a bit of an awkward transition when Dave begins to see an analyst and the film starts to take on a Psych 101 class air. I was also left wondering why Carrie doesn’t undergo similar growth. After all, we’ve also spent much time with her and her various mental incarnations, but to what end (other than comic effect) I’m not sure.
These small reservations aside, It’s Not You, It’s Me is worth checking out. The director is touring the country and promoting the film, which is available on outlets such as I-Tunes and Amazon for streaming and DVD purchase. It’s truly an independent effort all around, and if directors like Ives continue to push the romantic comedy genre in interesting new directions –and audiences respond—I suspect we will soon see a re-flowering of the genre at the studio level as well.
Directed by: Nathan Ives
Starring: Ross McCall, Joelle Carter, Vivica A. Fox, Erick Avari, Beth Littleford, Maggie Wheeler