Let me make this clear: when I say that I'm compiling a list of the most contrived rom-com scenarios, I'm not saying that they're automatically the worst -- although a glance at the titles doesn't exactly stray far from that correlation. Tomorrow's The Proposal finds Sandra Bullock forcing Ryan Reynolds into marriage for the sake of holding off immigration authorities and keeping her/their jobs (I guess it's not too soon to remake Green Card and Picture Perfect after all), so we're talking about seven plot points along those lines of high-concept, close-quarters thinking, with some (dis)honorable mentions along the way...
1. How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (2003) -- Advertising executive Matthew McConaughey bets his friends that he can woo any gal within ten days; magazine writer Kate Hudson promises her editor that she can frighten off any beau in the exact same amount of time. Lo and behold, not only do they happen to meet one another, and not only does wackiness ensue, but they *SPOILER ALERT* fall in love despite betraying one another's interests.
(I could do an entire list of romantic comedies where one of the main characters either writes for an upscale magazine or works at a hip advertising firm. But I'm tired now. Maybe some other time.)
2. Failure to Launch (2006) -- Handsome thirty-something Matthew McConaughey happens to live with his parents. Esteem-booster-for-hire Sarah Jessica Parker happens to win him over, while cashing the checks from his parents (!). Sure enough, despite the requisite second-act betrayal and the pictured-above climax that has McConaughey tied to a chair and forced to fall in True Love before an audience of strangers (webcam shenanigans this time, not stadium or airport, which would be totally clichéd), they do indeed *SPOILER ALERT* fall in love.
(Sequel pitch: Sarah Jessica Parker + Glenn Kenny = The Girlfriend Experience 2. Think about it, Soderbergh.)
3. The Perfect Man (2005) -- Not only are we meant to believe that Heather Locklear can't attract a decent guy, but we have to buy that she up-and-moves every time a relationship doesn't work out. Better Worse yet, daughter Hilary Duff opts to gather perfect advice from the perfectly single Chris Noth in order to make up a perfect secret admirer for Mom who doesn't even exist... OR DOES HE?!
(Spoiler alert: He does. They fall in love. Gag.)
4. Forces of Nature (1999) -- Ben Affleck's high-strung. Sandra Bullock's free-spirited. His wedding looms, and so does a hurricane. An errant bird grounds their flight. Hail, fire, mistaken identity, jail time and impromptu stripping soon follow. The movie, from title to synopsis, thrives on contrivance and yet has the huevos to *OH, RIGHT, DECADE-OLD SPOILER ALERT* cop out on its feature-length opposites-attract angle.
(Was Hugh Grant busy when they shot this or what? Seriously, this was the exact same writer behind Bullock's Miss Congenialitys, Grant's Music & Lyrics and their Two Weeks Notice. Way to corner a market, dude...)
5. Serendipity (2001) -- Okay, here's one good enough to temporarily ditch the caps lock. The already-engaged likes of John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale spent one fateful night together in Manhattan and, instead of exchanging numbers like proper people do, she puts her info in a book and he puts his on a $5 bill. If one of them comes to possess either one, only then is it Meant to Be, though the wait of several years has both of them antsy enough to go on the hunt and consequently continually miss out on one another and inevitably FINDONEANOTHERAFTERALLTHESEYEARSANDFALLTOTALLYINLURVEOMG!
(Sorry about that.)
(You know what? Can I just lump that year's Kate & Leopold with the other Miramax-released rom-com, in which Hugh Jackman stumbles back in time and falls for possible blood relation Meg Ryan? Even the incest cut has its charms, namely the leads.)
6. 50 First Dates (2004) -- Well-off bachelor Adam Sandler had to go and fall for the one girl who won't remember him the next morning: Drew Barrymore, sans her short-term memory. Them following romantic-comedy protocol in The Wedding Singer was one thing, and a winning one at that, but the gimmick of him growing exceedingly creative in his daily attempts to make her re-swoon transforms into something too mawkish for its own good... and I say that knowing that this puppy raked in $120 million domestically.
(Besides, who leaves Hawaii for the Arctic? They don't have Rob Schneiders in the Arctic!)
7. Some Like It Hot (1959) -- There we go, an honest-to-goodness classic in our ranks. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are on the run from gangsters, so they do what anyone would do: dress up as women. And what does one do when they fall for Marilyn Monroe? They do double dress-up duty as a fictional millionaire while their pal falls prey to a very real mogul and his very real affections, duh. It's all funny enough and nimble enough that its central contrivance rarely comes into question -- which is exactly how you do a rom-com right.
(Marilyn Monroe's perfect. I don't care what Joe E. Brown told you.)
I haven't seen... Sleepless in Seattle (I know, I know) or You've Got Mail or While You Were Sleeping, though they all sound like viable candidates.
No one has seen... Leap Year, because they haven't made it yet, but just look at this: Amy Adams travels across Ireland with a presumably helpful stranger (Matthew Goode) in order to propose to her boyfriend (Adam Scott) on the one day where he apparently can't refuse.
In the immortal words of one less than famous magician -- COME ON!