Is Julia Roberts Really The Queen of Romantic Comedy?

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Julia Roberts in 2016. Photo by Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

By Megan Bianco

Romantic comedies are a genre of film that’s hard to come by in modern cinema. That’s sad not only those who considerate a fave genre, but also for anyone looking for an easy date night.

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But if history has shown us anything, it’s that movie viewers—young or old—still have their favorite “romcoms.” Everyone has their opinion on who’s the true, quintessential female face of romantic comedies. I’ve always maintained that title belongs to Meg Ryan, and not just because we share half a name. She was the onscreen alter ego of author and filmmaker Nora Ephron for a decade with the hit flicks When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), as well as co-starred in IQ (1994), French Kiss (1995) and Addicted to Love (1997). Meg kept the “quirky, but cute” persona Diane Keaton popularized in the 1970s alive in the 1990s.

Then there’s also Sandra Bullock, who had her own successful vehicles with While You Were Sleeping (1994), Practical Magic (1998), Forces of Nature (1999), Two Weeks Notice (2002) and The Proposal (2009), giving the character type a sassier edge.

Going even further back in Hollywood history, you’ll find Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur as regular leads in romcoms like Bringing Up Baby (1938), My Man Godfrey (1936) and The More the Merrier (1943).

But the one movie star who usually gets the romcom crown is Julia Roberts. Starting her career with the “chick flicks” Mystic Pizza (1988) and Steel Magnolias (1989), Julia leapt into superstardom with the megahit Pretty Woman (1990). Then came I Love Trouble (1994), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Notting Hill (1999), Runaway Bride (1999) and America’s Sweethearts (2001).

Julia’s never been a favorite of mine and I think My Best Friend’s Wedding is borderline obnoxious, even as a big romcom fan. And yet, there is something about her efforts that keep people interested, especially Pretty Woman. What I’ve noticed lately is how great the endings to her hit movies are.

Endings, or third acts in general, are hard to pull off as effortlessly as the beginning of the film. Take for instance, Notting Hill, which I’ve always considered the weakest of the classic Richard Curtis romcoms (the others being Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) and Love Actually (2003)). But everything about the execution of the happy ending just flows so genuinely and sincerely that you can’t help but feel a bit joyous. And Elvis Costello’s “She” playing along helps, too.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) is another movie with Roberts that has a stellar ending. Steven Soderbergh’s modern remake of the Rat Pack classic is actually a pretty good movie and still holds up. But the final sequence set to Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is the most moving and touching moment in the movie. Same with the final scenes of Pretty Woman, and yes, maybe even My Best Friend’s Wedding.

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So whatever secret weapon is being using in her production shoots seems to be working. She still holds the crown.

Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.

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