Quarantine is an odd time for romance. Couples are locked down together, romances are challenged by distance, and single people are struggling to make dating work in a world where people cannot meet face-to-face for who knows how long. With the following movies, indulge in some genuinely entertaining on-screen romantic comedies, promising chemistry, great performances, and of course a happy ending, all available on Netflix.
Is “Jerry Maguire” a sports movie or a romantic comedy? It doesn’t really matter, because the story of a disillusioned sports agent who decides to reinvent his approach to clients while falling in love with his assistant satisfies as both. Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger charm as the central couple, but Cuba Gooding Jr. really steals the film in his Oscar-winning turn as an exuberant football star.
If you like sports romances, also check out Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner, and Tim Robbins in “Bull Durham.” Costner has never been better than in this tale of a seasoned catcher (Costner) and a baseball groupie (Sarandon) who take a rookie (Robbins) under their wing to prepare him for the major league, while maybe falling in love themselves. Although Robbins’s awkward lines about sex and women make it a questionable date-night pick, the romance and great performances make the film an absolute delight.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have starred in many films together, of varying quality, but their chemistry or talents have never been put to better use together than in their first collective outing, “Silver Lining’s Playbook,” an excellent film about two broken people who fall in love and learn to better themselves. Cooper plays Pat, a bipolar man recently released from a psych ward desperate to improve his life and reunite with his ex wife.
Lawrence deservingly won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for an enigmatic and engaging performance as a young widow who convinces Pat to join her in a dance competition in exchange for help getting around his ex wife’s restraining order. While this does not sound like the basis of a romcom, the electric sexual tension between the two injects grand romance into the bleakest of situations.
A similar, excellently acted character study of a romantic comedy featuring mental illness, complex characters, and a best supporting actress win is “As Good as it Gets,” starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, and Greg Kinnear. Nicholson perfects his charming misanthrope act as the OCD romance novelist Melvin Udall.
When his gay artist neighbor (Kinnear) is assaulted in a robbery gone wrong and needs money from his parents, Melvin finds himself on a road trip. He invites his favorite waitress (Hunt), a single mom to a sick son, and the trio bond as they drive from New York to Maryland. An excellent film, it balances the weight of the character-driven drama and the heartwarming romance beautifully. Try not to sigh when Nicholson tells Hunt, “You make me want to be a better man.”
Sometimes, however, you just want a clichéd, fun, formulaic rom com, and there are certainly many options. If you’re looking for standard genre fare, but actually want to laugh, Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl entertain in the opposites-attract romance, “The Ugly Truth.” She’s an uptight news producer. He hosts the eponymous, demeaning dating-advice show. Of course they clash until they fall in love. It’s a little crasser than typical genre fare, but will definitely entertain.
A smarter, lesser-known rom-com in a similar vein is Jason Sudeikis and Allison Brie’s “Sleeping with Other People.” The “Saturday Night Live” and “Community” alums are genuinely funny people, and they play off each other nicely as serial cheaters who decide to become friends and help each other become better at relationships.
Adam Scott returns to his history of playing smarmy jerks as Brie’s terrible ex, but the rest of the supporting cast is disappointingly bland and one-note. The friendship-to-love story was told much better in the excellent “When Harry Met Sally,” but this contemporary take is a good time.