Mumford’s Top Films of 2020

Graphic+by+Sydney+Stam.

Graphic by Sydney Stam.

By Jacqueline Mumford, Managing Editor

 

Reality hasn’t been so great lately.

When the pandemic took hold in early March, we were all knocked off our feet. I was reeling from a breakup just a few days before — perfect timing — and I felt like everything I knew, everything that made me feel comfortable and safe was now just gone. 

Rom-coms are not hailed as the highest brow of media and are often written off for stereotypical plot lines and sappy, unrealistic endings. Film buffs, and film students, are quick to tally these facts and decide to leave the genre be. However, throughout my time dissociating this year, I’ve found writers, actors and directors that took tropes and turned them into unique conversations about love, aging, relationships and trust. I loved rom-coms before — their instant calming ability, the way they can so quickly suck you into a perfect world — but my top three films of the year build on that classic foundation to create not only my favorite rom-coms but overall films too.

“Sleeping with Other People”

Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) aren’t really good people. After losing their virginity to each other in college, they never plan on seeing each other again. It’s a rom-com, so they reconnect accidentally — in a meeting for recovering sex addicts. Less of a rom-com than you thought! They spent their years apart drifting in and out of relationships, purposely sabotaging them through infidelity, or cheating just because.

Through Lainey’s problematic relationship with Matthew (Adam Scott) and Jake’s inability to settle down, the movie handles the idea of monogamy, what constitutes a happy relationship and what’s it’s like being just friends.

“Moonstruck”

It’s 1987. Cher is planning to release her self-titled album — produced in part by Bon Jovi. Nicholas Cage is a twenty-something up and comer. It’s like the cold and hot wind just before the tornado.

After winning countless awards in the ’80s, “Moonstruck” is still a beloved classic. What makes it memorable isn’t just the casting, though Cher and Nick Cage kissing will be burned in your memory — it’s the tone of the film. It’s not so much a romantic movie, or really a comedy, the tone of the film to me is simply “tension.”

After her husband gets hit by a bus, Loretta (Cher) moves back in with her family. She dedicates seven years to grieving and then decides it’s time to get married again, regardless of whether she’s in love. She ends up coaching Johnny (Danny Aiello) through a very awkward proposal, right before he leaves to visit his dying mother. She promises she’ll invite his estranged brother, Ronny (Cage) to the wedding while he’s gone, and guess what? They fall in love.

This movie handles infidelity and asks a really important question: what makes a relationship? Why do people even enter them? After finishing “Moonstruck,” I spent the rest of the day thinking about it. The screenplay is smart, funny and awkward, and Cher is a perfect lead.

“Fever Pitch”

Comedian, and Ben and Jerry’s flavor inspiration, Jimmy Fallon teams up with Drew Barrymore in this incredibly underrated rom-com. In this United States remake of the 1997 British film, Ben (Fallon) is a quirky and kind math teacher who just can’t keep a girlfriend. Lindsey (Barrymore), a businesswoman who never leaves the office, doesn’t understand why until she visits his apartment — he’s obsessed with the Red Sox. We’re talking Yankee toilet paper, Red Sox bedding, the works. To make this relationship work, they both need to make some sacrifices.

Their first date is one of my favorite scenes in rom-com history. The writing in this film is so funny, weird and unexpected, and Fallon and Barrymore’s chemistry is perfect. “Fever pitch” shows two adults nurturing a relationship that they both care about, even though it stands in the way of things they felt were really important. It’s an honest story of falling in and out of love. The cherry on top is that Fallon first fell in love with his now-wife Nancy Juvonen, one of the film’s producers, on the set — a real-life rom-com.

Honorable Mention: “He’s Just Not That Into You”

A rom-com based on a self-help book, what more could you ask for? This tongue-in-cheek film is jam-packed with stars (Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, and more) and plays with multiple related storylines. The movie relies on the gender binary and various other stereotypes to tell its story and has been criticized on these points for years. Its antiquated look at women and dating is tiresome, but I still found value in the structure of the film itself. The use of title cards and cut scenes made an otherwise standard 2000s rom-com much more compelling and helped to define a new niche of the genre.

 

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