Romantic comedies are wonderful things. For a couple of hours, we can forget our humdrum, everyday lives and imagine we are swept up in a sea of unlikely romance, finding love with the geeky boy next door who has grown up to be a Channing Tatum-esque hunk, or riding off into the sunset with the girl who was marrying someone else but dumped him just in time.
Of course, such romantic moments and heartfelt gestures only happen in the movies – here are just some of the rom com tropes that wouldn’t go down as well in real life and may even get you arrested…
1. Having a meet-cute in a bookshop
Rom-com: According to Hollywood, bookstores are romantic places to meet people (it’s certainly sexier than the ‘3 bottles of wine for £10’ aisle in Aldi). It’s where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant meet in Notting Hill, while Meg Ryan’s little New York bookshop is central to the romantic plot between her and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail. What could be more romantic than wandering the dusty aisles of classic books, eyes meeting over a copy of Pride and Prejudice?
Real life: You didn’t mean to pick up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, it was right there on display as you entered. It’s at that moment, just as you’re thumbing through looking for a rude bit, that the man of your dreams walks in to the bookstore. Red-faced, your eyes follow him as he makes his way to the Biographies section. He picks up a copy of Donald Trump: How To Get Rich. You fall out of love instantly.
2. The kiss in the rain
Rom-com: “Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed,” Andie MacDowell purrs to Hugh Grant as they stare into each other’s eyes in the London rain in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
And they’re not the only ones who have had a romantic lip-lock during a downpour – there’s Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Winona Ryder and Gabriel Byrne in Little Women, Kirsten Dunst and an upside-down Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in Dear John, and Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in Australia, to name just a few soggy smooches.
Real life: You kiss as the rain pours down. His carefully gelled hair gets flattened, her wavy curls turn into a sodden frizz. Make-up streaks down her face so she looks like a morose panda. In the movies, he’s wearing a white t-shirt that sexily plasters to his chest, in real life he’s wearing a hoodie that starts to smell a bit dank and feels cold against his skin. She starts to shiver, not with desire, but with the onset of pneumonia.
3. The chase through the airport
Rom-com: The romantic climax to many a movie has the lovelorn lead dashing through the airport, desperate to catch their love before they fly away forever. It’s been used so often in movies like Liar Liar and The Wedding Singer that there is even a junior version in Love Actually, when Liam Neeson helps his adorable son dodge airport security to go after the young girl he loves. Awww.
Real life: Have you been to an airport lately? Running through the terminal is likely to get you some strange looks, but trying to go through security without a ticket and passport while looking hot and sweaty from all that exercise is liable to get you a full body search at best, and jail time at worst. And have you allowed time for the customs queue, are you carrying any liquids and will you set off the metal detectors? Not looking very likely that you’ll catch that plane now, does it?
4. The romantic meet-up at the top of the Empire State Building
Rom-com: The most romantic building – in movies, at least – is, of course, New York’s Empire State Building. The most heart-breaking appearance of the iconic tower was in the 1957 romantic drama An Affair To Remember (a remake of 1939’s Love Affair) when Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr arrange to meet there after six months apart but (sob!) she gets hit by a car en route and he thinks she has stood him up.
Since then, movie couples who have admired the Manhattan skyline from its deck include Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and, of course, King Kong and Fay Wray in 1933’s King Kong… though that pair didn’t exactly live happily ever after.
Real life: The Empire State Building is the second most visited (after the Statue of Liberty) tourist attraction in New York. It costs more than $30 each to visit the main deck, so it’s not exactly a low-priced romantic gesture – and unless you go first thing in the morning or very late at night it is overflowing with people.
Queuing is not romantic. Sharing the cramped lift with thousands of sweaty tourists is not romantic. Having to shout ‘will you marry me’ to your beloved across the souvenir shop filled with ‘I Love NY’ mugs is not romantic.
5. Lying about yourself, but still getting the girl/guy after they find out about your deception
Rom-com: In Maid In Manhattan, rich political candidate Ralph Fiennes falls for hotel guest Jennifer Lopez. Except she isn’t a guest, she’s a hotel maid, and she doesn’t tell him. In Overboard, carpenter Kurt Russell convinces amnesiac rich girl Goldie Hawn that she’s his wife so she can mother his kids and clean for him. In Never Been Kissed, journalist Drew Barrymore is pretending to be a high school student when she falls in love with teacher Michael Vartan. Their deceptions are discovered, and they all live happily ever after.
Real life: You have fallen in love with someone, thinking they were one person and then find out they are someone else entirely. Would you forgive them? Would you marry them? Or would you have them arrested for fraud?
6. The over-the-top declaration of love
Rom-com: It’s usually the man who gets to do this one – some completely mad, often logistically impossible declaration of his love after it finally dawns on him that he’s spent half the movie mistreating the woman of his dreams/shagging someone else.
How can he win her heart? Oh yes! Arrange a very public flashmob in a New York train station (Friends with Benefits). Stand outside her bedroom window playing Peter Gabriel on a boombox (Say Anything). Sing ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ with a marching band at school (10 Things I Hate About You). Get Billy Idol to serenade her on a plane (The Wedding Singer). Yes, that’ll do it.
Real life: a) There is a man standing outside your bedroom window in a raincoat. He is probably a stalker, call the police.
b) You run off with Billy Idol (it’s the accent and the leather, you know).
c) Everyone is suddenly dancing/singing around you. This is not a private, personal declaration of love, it is musical peer pressure. If this is how he asks you out on a date, what the hell is he going to do when you first have sex? Submit you as an act for Britain’s Got Talent?
7. Listing everything you love about the person
Rom-com: The male lead reels off a list of all the things that make him love the woman standing in front of him, from the way she orders dinner to the cute way her nose wrinkles when she sneezes.
The best example of this trope is that ultimate rom com, When Harry Met Sally, when Billy Crystal finally realises he loves best friend Meg Ryan and delivers a passionate speech on New Year’s Eve to prove it, and it’s popped up in numerous other movies since including Win a Date with Tad Hamilton and That Awkward Moment.
Real life: Having someone list all your quirks sounds cute, but may backfire if you’re feeling a bit insecure. He loves the way you slurp your soup? Dear God, had he noticed that? Now you can’t eat in front of him again, ever, without thinking he’s watching you intently waiting for you to sound like a pig at a trough…