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Los Angeles' Best Romantic Comedies
While we might not have New York's Empire State Building—an into-the-clouds high-rise ripe for meet-cutes and wedding proposals—Los Angeles has its own romantic charms.The sprawling city offers a broad canvas for romantic tales—from downtown L.A.'s gorgeous historic Art Deco buildings to the 99 Cent stores in the Valley to the malls of Beverly Hills. There are plenty of average schmucks looking for love along with the usual suspects: actors, Beverly Hills daddy's girls, actors, aimless hipsters and sports agents. Here are our favorite romantic comedies based in L.A. but leave your own in the comments.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009, Directed by Mark Webb)
While we may be used to seeing a romance slowly unfold from the meet-cute until the loving or bitter end, (500) Days Of Summer—the hipster rom-com of 2009—takes a different, nonlinear approach to telling its doomed love story between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Vignettes of the relationship between Tom, a greeting card-writer, and his coworker, Summer, a classic manic pixie dream girl, are unveiled all out of order (a lighter Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), giving us glimpses of how we sometimes hold onto relationships we know are bad for us. Deschanel (pre-New Girl) is in full-on hipster goddess mode, rocking out her bangs, Anthropologie dresses, and singing along to The Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out." It's the first time we noticed that the Gordon-Levitt from 3rd Rock From The Sun had grown up to become a bonafide hottie. It's also a love letter to downtown. Tom and Summer traipse all throughout the photogenic and rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood in their ill-fated romance, hitting up historic buildings like the Bradbury Building and Million Dollar Theatre, and of course, sitting together on that iconic Angels Knoll bench that overlooks the downtown's gorgeous historic architecture.
CLUELESS (1995, Directed by Amy Heckerling)
Twenty years later, we haven't really fallen out of love with the Beverly Hills retelling of Jane Austen's clueless matchmaker "Emma" (or Paul Rudd, for that matter). It's a millennial touchstone but Angelenos are able to appreciate it on a deeper level for its iconic locations, the way it pokes fun at our sense of history ("Isn't my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972."), the lies we tell ourselves about traffic ("Everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes!") and the definition of a California roll ("I totally paused.") —Emma Gallegos
JERRY MAGUIRE (1996, Directed by Cameron Crowe)
There are so many lines from Jerry Maguire—from "You complete me" to "Show me the money!"—that are still ingrained in our minds to this day even though the film debuted in 1996. It made an indelible mark because it was the rom-com to watch during those years. Sports agent and idealist Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) decides to ditch his L.A.-based agency to start his own agency. He manages to get Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) from the office to join him in his crusade with little more than one helluva mission statement and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) as a client. We like to watch the movie and revisit a time when Cruise's sexiness overshadowed his Scientology creep factor and couch-jumping antics, before Gooding, Jr. starred in "Snow Dogs" and when we all wanted to be Dorothy because she had that adorable bespectacled son and mostly because she got to make out with Maguire.
EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (1988, Directed by Julien Temple)
This is an underrated campy musical from writer Julie Brown, who grew up in Van Nuys and doesn’t miss a single opportunity to poke fun good-naturedly at the Valley. "Earth Girls" stars Geena Davis as a manicurist who keeps a hair dryer in her car just in case she needs to dry her nails and is engaged to a capital-D Douchebag Doctor. The flick introduced us to then unknowns Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans as horny aliens on a mission. Angelyne and her Corvette also make a cameo that earned her a Golden Raspberry nom. And Jeff Goldblum plays himself: a sexy creature who is not of this earth, whose body is bathed in light during love-making and who always says the right thing even when we have no idea what the sounds coming out of his mouth mean. How could an Earth Girl resist? —Emma Gallegos
L.A. STORY (1991, Directed by Mick Jackson)
L.A. Story is equal parts a quintessential film about Los Angeles and a quirky, fantasy rom-com. Penned by renaissance man Steve Martin, the 1991 film is centered around the life of TV weather anchorman Harris Telemacher (Martin) and his romantic dilemma: he has a pretty horrible girlfriend Trudi (Marilu Henner) but is completely enamored with a British journalist Sara (Victoria Tennant) who he's recently met. His plans don't quite work out as planned, so he instead begins dating the ditzy SanDeE, portrayed by a very young Sarah Jessica Parker, all while still pining for Sara. The script is peppered with the perfect quips about Angeleno social customs (especially in the entertainment industry), and you know this is truly an L.A. romance when Martin gets love advice from a magical freeway sign.
MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ (1971, Directed by John Cassavetes)
Love is a many splendored thing that may as well have its own entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, driving people to irrational, self-destructive, and sometimes violent behavior. This is what the best screwball comedies of the '30s and -40s riffed on, and John Cassavetes updated that in his 1971 romance Minnie And Moskowitz by making the titular couple already unhinged to begin with. Seymour Moskowitz is a transplant New York drifter who falls head-over-heels for Minnie Moore, a LACMA curator, and their fling is one of spontaneous swings of pure romance and terrifying violence. But what makes Minnie And Moskowitz a particularly great film—outside of the fact it's by Cassavetes and you get two typically great performances out of Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel—is how naturally lived-in its Los Angeles feels. There are no cheap establishing shots of landmarks to remind you, "Hey, it's Los Angeles!" nor does its streets get blurred into an anonymous urban landscape. When Seymour and Mnnie stop Pink's for a few hot dogs, it feels like any other Friday night date in L.A. —Carman Tse
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002, Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
Paul Thomas Anderson, our great cinematic chronicler of the Valley's essence, riffed off of Minnie And Moskowitz into his own bizarre, otherworldly Punch-Drunk Love. The Valley's mundane retail spaces and warehouses, colorful 99 Cents Only Stores, and sterile apartment complexes all get filtered through the brain of the infantile Barry Egan (Adam Sandler, performing his man-child in an "art" film for the first time) as he falls madly in love with the quietly-deranged Lena (Emily Watson). Just as wildly romantic as Minnie And Moskowitz with a simmering explosiveness underneath, Punch-Drunk Love is enrapturing with its bursts of color, swinging Jon Brion score, and Tatiesque sensibilities. — Carman Tse
SHOPGIRL (2005, Directed by Anand Tucker)
Shopgirl is the tale of Mirabelle Buttersifled (Claire Danes), a young artist originally from Vermont who is paying her bills by selling evening gloves at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. She meets two men around the same time—the young and immature Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), and the older and very wealthy Ray Porter (Steve Martin). The film follows the way her relationship develops with each of them, as well as the way the characters themselves change. The film is based on a novella written by Martin himself. While there are some moments where the viewer will be sad for Danes, it's a suitable movie for Valentine's Day that ends well. It even features a meet-cute in a laundromat, and plenty of shots of L.A. at night. —Juliet Bennett Rylah
THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005, Directed by Judd Apatow)
Subsequent Judd Apatow movies used Los Angeles as more of a setting (and turned more navel-gazey as he focused on people in the entertainment biz-ness) than his breakthrough 40-Year-Old Virgin, but the suburban-Southern California milieu plays a key role in the film. Its bland, muted-dayglo colors serve as a canvas for the sex jokes and boys-being-boys behavior for contrast but are also a reminder that it's a puritanical story at heart: for some people, it's best to wait for marriage. —Carman Tse
GREASE (1978, Directed by Randal Kleiser)
Love it or hate it, but it's hard to get the infectious tunes like "Summer Nights" or "Greased Lightning" out of your head. In this musical rom-com, we get to see John Travolta as leather jacket-donning Danny Zuko in Grease. He's the greaser with the tough exterior but a heart of gold. Things get a bit dramatic (as high school is wont to be) when Danny's summer fling—square yet hot Aussie Sandy Olssen (Olivia Newton-John)—becomes the fresh new student at his SoCal school. Danny's torn between shedding his bad boy image and showing that he's a vulnerable human with real emotions. The movie features a fantastic car race through the L.A. River.
VALLEY GIRL (1983, Directed by Martha Coolidge)
This is a must for the Nic Cage completist. It's the first time he's credited as Cage instead of Coppola, but it's certainly not the last time he'd nail the role of an unhinged character with a hair-trigger temper. A young Cage plays Randy, a punk from the wrong side of the Hollywood Hills who doesn’t even know what sushi is. Julie is the titular mall-dwelling Valley Girl who falls for him after seeing him shirtless at the beach. But it turns into a sort of Romeo and Juliet situation: can their love bridge the chasm between the Valley yuppies and the rough-and-tumble Hollywood punk scene? It's pretty silly and light but definitely a fun time capsule from the 1980s. —Emma Gallegos
SWINGERS (1996, Directed by Doug Liman)
Swingers is a rom-com for bros. There's our forlorn and heartbroken protagonist Mike Peters (Jon Favreau), a fresh transplant who leaves NYC for L.A. in hopes of kicking his acting career into gear. (We've heard that story before.) Wallowing over the pain of losing his ex, one of his best bros Trent (Vince Vaughn) takes Mike on some L.A. adventures, getting into some high jinx and meeting some pretty ladies among the way (Heather Graham). And since this 1996 film takes place during the height of the swing revival (remember Squirrel Nut Zippers? The Brian Setzer Orchestra?), the Rat Pack crew gets their kicks at swing dancing nights at Hollywood clubs while Mike tries to learn how to talk to women again without sounding like a complete schmuck.
ANNIE HALL (1977, Directed by Woody Allen)
It's easy to forget, in between the recent terrible output today and the horrific details of his personal life, that Woody Allen had a stretch when here made some of the best American comedies, and Annie Hall is his masterpiece. Yes, it takes place in New York like practically every Allen movie, but we'd be remiss to not include one of the greatest of all film romances if only for its takedown of Los Angeles in the final stretch—hilarious for both Woody Allen's myopia and some legitimately sharp barbs. No, Alvy (Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) don't stay together at the end of the film, but they do live happily ever after. Annie Hall is a perfect reminder that sometimes even the greatest loves aren't 'til death do us part. — Carman Tse
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