Among his “Memos to Hollywood,” A.O. Scott calls on the rom-com studios to hire some fresh air for a dying genre:
To: Heads of production, Sony, Universal, Paramount, Fox, Disney
Cc: Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, Greta Gerwig, Aaron Katz and all their Facebook Friends
You all keep trying to make Rock Hudson-Doris Day-style romantic comedies with the golden guys and gals of the moment, and the results are sexless, subtextless, bland career-girl-in-search-of-Mr.-Right retreads. Meanwhile, a bunch of hungry directors with digital cameras, time on their hands and not much money are making free-form studies about tentative hookups and long conversations among actual, overeducated, undermotivated young folks.
It’s something that’s been said since the troupe’s early days at SXSW. At Sundance Greta was actively pushed as the next hot romantic lead after “Baghead.” It worked, since she’ll next be seen opposite Ben Stiller in Noah Baumbach’s new film, “Greenburg.”
But I wonder if these filmmakers aren’t already a step ahead of this advice, and to mixed results.
The Duplass brothers have already tried for the studio translation with an as-yet-untitled film for Searchlight starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei. Their brand of comedy could make the crossover.
But Hollywood may not have the patience for Bujalski, Swanberg and the others. Their stories need room to stretch. They don’t scream big box-office weekend, but more like a patient platform release. And while the fits-and-starts of awkward conversation are the tools of their drama, they themselves may have no patience for the confusing, black hole conversations involved in some studio development. These filmmakers want to keep making films, not conference call about it endlessly.
And I would bet that many of these filmmakers have gone down this intensely frustrating development road with Hollywood and, quite rightly, figured that they could have made a movie in the time they were waiting for a call-back.
At least Hollywood pays you to develop (sometimes).