I Hate Valentine's Day
July 3, 2009
One can’t blame Nia Vardalos for wanting to recapture the lightning in a bottle of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. As it stands, it most likely will be her high water mark as a performer. $241 million domestic and $127 million international gross against a budget of $5 million for a film that looked and felt like an extended pilot for a weekly sitcom (which if you look at it from a certain angle, it did end up becoming) is mind-blowing no matter how many times one types the words or says them aloud. Aside from being the kind of unforeseen, word-of-mouth, long-running success that delights in confounding box office prognosticators such as BOP, it earned its star/scribe an Oscar nomination and the chance to write her own ticket for a few years. That would be My Big Fat Greek Life (TV show, seven episodes) and Connie and Carla ($8 million, which brings us into the present.
Romantic comedies are my favorite genre, which is probably why I can be the harshest on the ones that just don’t do anything for me. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys themselves at something I don’t care for and I feel the same way about Greek Wedding: It wasn’t great, certainly, but it wasn’t wretched. It made a lot of people happy, precisely because although the title seems to trumpet a very specific milieu, the film was generic and affable enough that anybody watching it could relate, and exclaim, "my uncle/cousin/sister/husband is exactly the same way." I tend to think that the more specific and detailed a film is, the more chance it has to become universal and meaningful (for me at least), but Greek Wedding’s success would argue loudly against that.
Vardalos has not one but two romantic comedy projects completed that feature her once again looking for Mr. Right and wondering what to do about it when and if she finds him. The first, My Life in Ruins, just has her as an actress, but I Hate Valentine’s Day (which has an awesome title) features her for the first time as the triple-threat hyphenate: writer actress-director. That and it reunites her with John Corbett as her romantic lead. The pair play a passionate, romantic florist and a committment-phobe restaurant owner, respectively, who attempt the florist’s take on "relationship-less" dating. As Vardalos explains, "she proposes they go on just five dates" and then break up. The actress wrote the script to examine the unrealistic expectations that people bring to and attempt to force upon their romantic lives, especially in regards to holidays and special days, the titular one in particular.
The concept is intriguing, particularly if it leans more towards the tart than the trite, but it must be said that John Corbett’s status as a leading man remains a mystery to me. He didn’t do anything for me on Northern Exposure or since then - although he was unrecognizably greasy, beefy and corrupt in the ill-fated Street Kings - but perhaps Vardalos can coax a little something out of him the second time around. That would be as spectacular and shocking as Greek Wedding’s financial success. (Brett Beach/BOP)