Deep Focus:  “Valentine’s Day”

Story posted February 6, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by Morayo Ogunbayo.

Romantic-Comedies are often criticized for being seen as cash grabs. Critics and audiences alike rarely view romantic-comedies as true “cinema” and even the most critically acclaimed within the genre, “When Harry Met Sally,” “You’ve Got Mail,” etc., are seldom spoken about in the same conversations as movies with similar levels of acclaim.

The genre started to fall in the early 2000s after its usual stars moved towards more prestige films. However, the genre’s usual directors had nowhere to go and continued to try to revitalize romantic comedies.

Garry Marshall’s 2010 film “Valentine’s Day,” distributed by Warner Bros., is often looked at as one of the more egregious examples of the flaws within the genre, due to its obvious attempt at conjuring up audiences looking for ways to spend the holiday and a star-studded cast that borders on parody.

However, despite the film’s extremely low critical scores, its success in the box office is representative of its ability to accomplish what Marshall had set out to, a true romantic-comedy.

Garry Marshall is often credited as one of the inventive directors in the romantic-comedy genre. He started his career in television writing, with prolific sitcoms like “The Odd Couple” and “Happy Days,” but made his first foray in the genre with the 1984 film “The Flamingo Kid,” which opened to a solid box office and upbeat critic reviews.

While the genre of romantic-comedies had existed for almost as long as film had existed, the 1980s created a new world of superstars to star in them and young audiences to obsess over them. Marshall continued to make acclaimed comedies and romantic-comedies throughout the 80s until his “magnum opus,” “Pretty Woman,” came out in 1990.

The film, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, spurred a new renaissance of romantic-comedies, unlike the genre, had ever seen before. However, after making a film like Pretty Woman, it is hard to maintain the momentum, which Marshall proved.

He continued to find box office success in films such as “Runaway Bride” and “The Princess Diaries” franchise, but never had the critical and commercial success of Pretty Woman again. Critics began to see Marshall as a parody of himself, and “Valentine’s Day” seemed to be the perfect film to continue this persona.

Critics tore into the film, and even today it is often held up as an example of the loss of cinema that comes from studios that only care about the bottom line. However, one thing many critics remarked on was how the film hit every beat one would expect from a romantic-comedy, multiple times.

There were meet-cutes, and there were first kisses. There were mistaken identities, and there were proposals.

While critics were disappointed to see what was essentially “Love Actually”, but set around a different holiday, audiences saw the exact film they expected for Valentine’s Day date night.

Before Marshall passed in 2016, he directed “New Year’s Eve” in 2011, which followed a similar plot and cast to “Valentine’s Day.” Marshall’s last film, “Mother’s Day,” was nominated for two Razzie awards and marked the end of Marshall’s roller-coaster career.

Morayo Ogunbayo is a sophomore studying journalism. To contact her, email mxo5216@psu.edu.