Meg Ryan returns to the world of Rom-Com to direct and star in “What Happens Later”

Meg Ryan returns to the world of Rom-Com to direct and star in “What Happens Later”

Is there a cinematic genre more harmful than the romantic comedy? While some action thrillers are rejected by audiences and critics, and some superhero movies crash and burn, romantic comedies are constantly ridiculed and treated like the ugly ducklings of the movie family.

Romantic comedies have been accused of being implausible and derided as absurd – criticisms easily attributed to action films and sci-fi adventures – and carry familial baggage wherever they are written or talked about, with some of the language used to describe the genre being more than simply sexist or subjective. – Hatred according to the critic.

A new romantic comedy available on demand this week after a short run in theaters comes from romantic comedy actress extraordinaire Meg Ryan. Known for her breakout roles in “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “You’ve Got Mail,” she directs and stars in “What Happens Later.” It’s her second time pulling double duty in front of and behind the camera, and based on the modest enjoyment of this new film, she should be given more opportunities to develop her directorial talent. In terms of her acting, she’s as endearing and lively as ever, despite her age and her sinister appearance turning into something more sour.

David Duchovny is Mrs. Ryan’s only acting partner in the movie, and he’s also been appearing for years. However, with its laconic tone and sombre tone, it provides the perfect contrast to the film’s more zany aspects. The premise is very simple: during a major snowstorm, former lovers Willa and Bill meet again after many years, at a regional airport. She’s an optimistic practitioner of alternative medicine who carries a rain-baton while he worries and works in finance. The clarity of “opposites attract” may leave some people dumbfounded, but the two performers ground the theme with their obvious chemistry and likeability.

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Cute coincidences appear from the beginning: they share the same initials (WH); They travel to each other’s cities; They both need to charge their phones; It’s a leap year, February 29th. However, their conversation, as they wait out the storm as their flights are delayed, revolves around the pains and struggles of the past, with humor that only occasionally leaves out the embarrassment that accompanies their reunion. The dialogue also addresses aging, climate change, and generational differences, with statements such as “the world has gone crazy” occasionally indicating the overall tone.

Most of the jokes at this point arrive via ambient airport sound, like canned ’90s pop-rock covers broadcasting from the speakers, with Mr. Duchovny’s character’s annoying reactions to this particularly relatable aural pablum. Also fun are the intercom announcements announcing flight status and weather, which seem to comment on Willa and Mike’s relationship and discussions as well.

As the skirmishes continue, and the pair ease into spending the duration of the delay together, the mood turns light and dark, especially during a tender scene in which a tragic incident from their past is recounted to Willa and Belle falling quietly in comfortable proximity. The rehashing of old grudges never quite goes away, but the characters begin to reveal their failings and secrets with less cynical spite, and the film’s romantic side blossoms beautifully. There’s even a dance scene set for The Lightning Seeds’ 1989 alternative classic “Pure,” and it’s an unreserved joy to see the middle-aged cast sway and twirl together — rom-com clichés be damned.

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Visually, the bland, modern airport setting limits the scope of the images, but alongside the cinematographer and art department, director Ryan is able to coax some interesting moments with reflective surfaces, sweeps of lighting, and sculptures. (It turns out that most of the film was shot at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.) Her frequent use of two shots, with both characters in the frame, also shows that she’s not just an astute observer of events. Interpersonal dynamics but skilled at staging and timing. She even uses the logo of airport terminals – the moving mechanical walkway – to show how her characters are caught between the past and the future.

Although it doesn’t reach the rom-com heights of Ms. Ryan’s films with the late Nora Ephron, to whom the film is dedicated, “What Happens Later” provide fun entertainment when one is looking for familiar faces while on the couch, and a little warmth when the weather turns wintry. Its plodding pacing and rugged banter can’t match the charming plots and clever dialogue of classic films of the genre, yet it touches on how the emotional disconnect from our youth can define us. Also, how meeting an ex again years later can help overcome regret, inspiring positive reconciliation.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is an important announcement: romantic comedies can say much more than expected.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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