I think most of us like to feel that an ending is deserved in a book or a movie and that applies across the spectrum of genres. I’m only going to discuss romances however. The other night I watched Set It Up on Netflix after reading a glowing review from Vox. Meh. While the office humor was cute, the romance aspect was basically all snark and zero chemistry. The ending basically consisted of the protags going hey we might as well get together now since we’re both free and sarcastic. But there was no real epiphany or character arc or anything interesting wrt either one of them. What’s sort of ironic is that this is how we often behave in real life, since people don’t like to work for things (work? waaah!), which utterly sucks ~ and idk about you, but I want my fiction to be better than real life!
Compare this to one of the best romcoms of all time When Harry Met Sally. The protags change during the film and make the audience feel an anxious longing for them to work through the obstacles preventing them from being together. When Harry runs through the streets of New York City on New Year’s Eve to find Sally, we’re right there with him, feeling his desperation. Harry and Sally both grow as characters during the film (which takes place over a decade) and do more than just snark at each other to create sparks. Think about your favorite romcom ~ you’ll likely agree that the protags have to change and overcome character traits or fears in order to be with their soul mate. This doesn’t just happen via lazy banter and geographical convenience. Love should be earned and fought for, not handed out in the last scene like a party favor.
The same goes for romance novels, which are heavier on the romance and lighter on the comedy (though the best ones are witty too). I recently read two that seemed similar cuz they both were about fictional dukes in England around the same time period, but one had an earned happily ever after ending and one did not. They were both enjoyable, for different reasons, but I gave one 3 stars and the other 4, because of the earned aspect.
In How to Forget a Duke, neither protag changes significantly during the novel other than falling in love. The main issue that keeps them apart is resolved by someone else fixing it, not by either the hero or heroine figuring out a way around the issue or deciding it is not as important as their lurve. That gave me the sads. But in From Duke Till Dawn, both protags change during the novel (and more than once) and have various epiphanies about each other, themselves, and life in general. It’s a really good book and the ending is earned. I didn’t give it 5 stars because I simply can’t bear ridiculous coinkydinks, and if a duke with his massive resources can find people anywhere, why couldn’t he have found Cassandra when she disappeared the first time? Anyway…
I’m glad I stumbled across that Vox article I linked in the first para because it referenced The Daily Beast’s 2014 essay declaring that the romcom is dead, which I hadn’t heard before. Is that true? TDB makes a good argument for it ~ and I haven’t seen many (any?) decent new romcoms in the last 5 years or so. I loved The Big Sick, if that counts as one, but even if… that’s just one. Can you think of any other recent big-screen romcoms?
Oh well, there are still are romantic books to read. Remember books? 🙂