Love will help us get through this period of self-quarantine and social distancing. So will laughter. That’s why romantic comedies are a good choice for pausing pandemic anxiety for a few hours. Here are five that fit the times in their own special ways.
‘The Holiday’ (2006)
You’re in safe hands for a cinematic getaway when director Nancy Meyers is in charge. She makes movies that are funny, sophisticated images of a dream life. Her films also provide ideas for dream date, dream best friends and dream kitchens.
Meyers achieved cable-rerun immortality with “The Holiday,” a rom-com too good to limit to December. The house-swap escapade sends a high-powered Hollywood exec (Cameron Diaz) off to vacation in a cozy English cottage, while its usual resident, a British columnist (Kate Winslet), borrows the exec’s luxurious Los Angeles trophy home.
What’s the best part of a film that’s as comfortable as fuzzy socks and flannel pajamas? Is it Jude Law’s take on a humble, awkward widower? Jack Black’s sexy side? Winslet’s friendship with an elderly screenwriter played by the great Eli Wallach? Yes, all that, plus Diaz’s endless supply of off-white winter knitwear. Keep watching over and until you feel much better about life.
‘The Big Sick’ (2017)
It’s a counterintuitive pick, maybe, but star and co-screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani’s tender comedy about a man who breaks up with his true love, then sticks by her through a medically-induced coma makes a hopeful statement about surviving a medical crisis.
Nanjiani is wonderful in a plot based on his real-life courtship of his wife, co-screenwriter Emily V. Gordon. Whether dealing with his strict Pakistani parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff)m who are pushing an arranged marriage, or facing the skepticism of his girlfriend’s mom and dad (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), he depicts the learning curve that anyone goes through when love is tested by uncontrollable outside forces.
Same goes for Zoe Kazan, who is superb as a woman who realizes that perfection in a relationship is unattainable, but extreme loyalty might be even better. If you think it’s impossible to laugh in a time of viral peril, the funny human moments here will correct that impression.
‘You’ve Got Mail’ (1998)
Oh, the simple days of AOL email accounts. This classic Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan reboot of 1940’s “Shop Around the Corner” — directed and co-written by the great Nora Ephron — is set in the dinosaur age of technology, yet it’s just the thing for coping with 2020.
What better way to conduct a flirtation right now than through online chatting and never actually meeting? And what more charming conflict than a feud between an indie bookstore owner (Ryan) and the scion of a mega-bookstore chain (Hanks)? It almost (but not quite) makes you forget your library is closed and your local bookstore is taking a big financial hit.
And given how much we all need a cathartic cry, the moment where Hanks wipes away Ryan’s tears — “Don’t cry, shopgirl” — is one of the most exquisite weeping inducers of the last 30 years. Someday, when social distancing is no longer necessary, find someone who touches your face the same way.
‘Jumping the Broom’ (2011)
Paula Patton and Laz Alonso star as the gorgeous young couple whose lavish wedding on Martha’s Vineyard seems destined to be disrupted. But it’s still a reminder that family gatherings with dozens of testy relatives may not be the worst thing to endure.
As Patton and Alonso see their plans begin to unravel, a strong supporting cast finds comedy gold in the tensions of clashing relatives and in-laws. With Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell as Patton’s snooty parents, Loretta DeVine as Alonso’s clingy mother, and Meagan Good and Gary Dourdain as the maid of honor and reception chef who send sparks flying, you’ll be saying “I do” to this comedy of misunderstandings, unearthed secrets and, eventually, blessed reconciliation.
And extra kudos to Tasha Smith as Patton’s best friend who is pursued by a much younger man and Julie Bowen of “Modern Family” as the frazzled wedding planner.
‘The American President’ (1995)
The biggest problem faced by President Andrew Shepherd, at least for much of this politically themed rom-com, is convincing a florist he is not prank-calling when he tries to order flowers for the lobbyist who has stolen his heart.
Sure, there is some agonizing over an environmental bill and a mini-scandal involving the lobbyist’s youthful involvement in the protest movement. But rest assured, the ride in this star vehicle driven by Michael Douglas and Annette Bening is a smooth fantasy version of high-profile love affairs,not to mention government in action.
And if the ballroom scene in “Beauty and the Beast” — animated or live action — is your ultimate in swoon-level dances, check out Douglas and Bening’s twirl at a White House state dinner. As they used to say in 1995 (or maybe it was 1935?), yowza!