Someone please stop me.
My screenplay writing began with an online date. So, it seems karmic that my second screenplay is about…you guessed it…online dating. More or less.
Spoiler alert, should you ever get to see it onscreen, I am writing about dating as an older adult. That sounds hilarious, right? Sex with stiff joints, and not the kind you roll up, funny missed connections because one or both of you forgot where you were meeting, calling each other by former partners names. All former partners. Before you get to the right one. “Bill, I mean Scott, oh damn, Henry. Phil. No, no don’t tell me.” You would think, until you try to write with more subtlety. Then, there is the issue of how to end a screenplay about older people and online dating. Does one become a stalker? Does the Rom Com become a psychological thriller? (I vote yes). Does one of them keel over on the honeymoon? Is a honeymoon ending required? All of those ideas are rather dark. You see why I need help with the Romantic Comedy genre?
Which part of Romantic Comedy is the most difficult to write, you ask? As well you might. Comedy, as all good comedians will tell you, is hard work. What works on paper doesn’t always translate into laughs on stage or screen. What works in an intimate setting may not be funny on the big or little screen. Those of us who consider ourselves highly amusing may find that opinion is not shared by our intended audience. And who the hell is the audience for stories about old people trying to find love when all else has failed? Maybe AARP will sponsor a viewing in one theater a city for one showing.
Romantic writing, on the other hand, is an even more crowded field than comedy, and just as difficult in its own way. Everybody and their grandmother, from the beginning of the written word, has waxed eloquently or not so eloquently on romance. There are romantic poets, romance novels, romantic songs, and dating app profiles. In fact there is enough romantic writing to send us singles screaming into the night.
So why do I want to contribute more to either genre, much less a combo of the two? Because there are so few Rom Coms for elders. The few out there often have an older man/younger woman component, even if said man winds up with an older woman at the end. Think Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give.” More recent fare has broken ground. “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix has two straight husbands leaving their wives of over 30 years for each other. The wives become besties in spite of extremely different personalities. There is older woman/younger man action. One woman chooses her friend and her children over true love. Tough act to follow for any writer, although I am certainly grateful trails are being blazed.
With those hurdles to bound over, I carry the weight of my own experiences with dating and relationships. (Follow me for more on that). I also bring first wave feminism and a lifetime of Disney princess movies. Talk about mixing metaphors. Women my age, and let’s be honest, most western women, carry within them a confusion of these mixed ideologies. One of the early movies to deal with the struggle between both subjects is “An Unmarried Woman” with Jill Clayburgh. ( Real spoiler alert). Husband leaves wife for younger woman. Wife goes to therapy. She finds herself and becomes more herself while single. She risks love with an artist. The ending is powerful and ambiguous. She decides not to follow him on a tour, and he leaves her attempting to wrangle a huge painting he has given her down a crowded New York City sidewalk. Most days I am her. Some days I am sure I would go on tour with the sexy, interesting artist.
So what will my protagonist do if I decide to write her into a similar situation where such a decision is required? Hell if I know. I’m counting on her to sort through the ideologies, romance, concerns of aging, desire for sex, etc. and show me where to take her. I can only hope to provide the comedy. Or maybe it really be a psychological thriller. Creepy and scary is so much easier than love.