Movie theaters were closed most of 2020, but this was not a year without movies. There have been many good and a few great movies this year, with more yet to come in the early months of 2021 to qualify for the adjusted awards season schedule. Eventually, I’ll get around to doing a proper top 10 for 2020(ish) films, but for now let me just tell you the movies I enjoyed most this year: romantic comedies. Rom-coms provided good vibes in a year with a lot of bad vibes. Their happy endings and frequently twee settings made them the ideal escapism this year, whether it’s to an endless time loop in the desert or Jane Austen’s England. Here are a few of the rom-coms that kept me going in 2020.
Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. isn’t just a sharp adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic, it’s one of the best-looking films of the year. But it is also a delightful, deliciously gossipy period rom-com that puts a little sex and swagger into Regency England (Bridgerton blows it out of the water on the sex scale, though). It was one of the first theatrical films pushed to early on demand access when the lockdown first hit in March, which means I have watched Emma. eleventy billion times already. It holds up magnificently on re-watch, largely thanks to the classic love story at the heart of the film. Every element of the film is great, but it always comes down to seeing Emma get her sh-t together and Mr. Knightley never give up on her. There are few rom-com couples as satisfying as Emma and Mr. Knightley.
No movie, let alone a rom-com, captured the time dilation of 2020 like Palm Springs. A solid wedding-set rom-com, Palm Springs would be enjoyable any time, but it fit our 2020 mood perfectly. Its vision of romance is quite mundane, despite the quantum mechanics at the heart of the story, as love is the force that makes life bearable, even when life seems pointless and nothing matters. From the depths of our 2020 despair, Palm Springs said, “Yeah but we still have each other.”
Eurovision Song Contest
Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’ delightfully daffy love letter to the annual Eurovision contest—which was cancelled this year—turned out to be dumb summer fun we needed. But its charms and enthusiastic joy still resonate even in the depths of winter. I’ve watched this movie a few times this year, and I’ve watched the “Waterloo” clip on YouTube approximately one million times. It never fails to make me smile, and that kind of instant heart-hit has been invaluable in such a sucky year. Also, “Jaja Ding Dong” is the unchallenged call-and-response anthem of 2020.
The Broken Hearts Gallery
A rom-com in the traditional mold, The Broken Hearts Gallery lives and dies on the chemistry of its leads, Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery. Fortunately, they have chemistry to spare, and Viswanathan is a genuine movie star, just imminently watchable in every scenario. I bounced between this and Miracle Workers a couple times this year, and Viswanathan never failed to elicit a smile. Put this woman in everything.
Whether you’re rooting for Abby to end up with Harper or Riley, or you’re just here to support Jane: The Best One, Happiest Season is the holiday rom-com to defeat all 2020 holiday rom-coms. Forget that mawky Hallmark sh-t, hang out with Abby and Harper, who actually resemble real people and have real problems in their lives. And yet! Still a rom-com, so that cozy happy ending is just waiting for you to tune in from the comfort of your couch. Honestly, I would like a spin-off of just John and Jane on Jane’s literary tour. And then a sequel for Riley to find true love. Bring on the Happiest Season cinematic universe!