Boy meets girl. Girl is charming. Boy is flustered. There are sparks. The attraction between to the two is immediate.
However, there is a problem. The girl is married. Or the boy is married. Or the girl is a famous movie star. Or the boy is a prince. Or maybe the boy owns a competing bookstore. Or maybe they are passengers on a sinking boat. How about if the girl was a fly-by-night adorable being just meant to inspire the boy and refuses to settle down?
But all of that doesn’t matter because we are talking about LOVE people! LOVE! That thing that conquers all!
Listen, we are all suckers for a good romance pic. I don’t care how much you tubthump the latest effort from Blumhouse, the most obscure Oscar-winning foreign film or the new venture from Jim Jarmusch, we all have a secret love for cheesy boy-meets-girl pics that send out hearts a flutter.
And since we all secretly watch The Holiday in a dark room with no windows, many are aware that many of these movies are deeply flawed. This is probably because a story that only works within the confines of a very specific set of circumstances can easily fall apart.
For example, what would happen if the roles were reversed, and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl was a dude?
Would he still be charming or a sponge on society?
What about the guy that never gave up on winning the girl was suddenly a woman chasing her former boyfriend?
Would we throw her in the Crazy Ex Girlfriend pile?
With that in mind, here a few classic romancers that completely fall apart if you reverse the roles:
New Plot Premise: A Hollywood actor jerks around a shyish bookstore owner, not once but twice! First by leading her on when he already had a girlfriend, then again when he accuses her not keeping their relationship secret. However, everything works out in the end when he buys her an expensive painting and she gives up her life to live in his shadow.
Why The Original Works: Aside from the fact that both Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are exceedingly charming, by making Grant a bumbling fool who is unable to function when Roberts is around plays directly with the heartstrings of the audience. He is a fool for love, a man willing to place his dignity aside for the woman he loves.
And we are cool with that, because if a woman lowered herself to that level, it would be slightly appalling.
New Plot Premise: A high-strung foreign-born magazine editor bullies his assistant to marry him. They pretend to be a couple and go…you know what, fuck this. The fact that in the role reversal this movie comes off misogynistic bullshit that implies you can force or buy a woman’s decision in a relationship.
Why the Original Works: Because it’s a chick! Get it!
Again, this works because of the performances of Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. But even then, it doesn’t work for everyone. It’s just a matter if you believe in their chemistry.
While You Were Sleeping
New Plot Premise: A subway worker saves the life of a woman who falls onto the tracks. Despite the gallant effort, the fall causes the woman falls into a coma and she is rushed to the nearest hospital. When he goes to check on her at the hospital, he must pretend to be her fiance in order to get past the nurses. However, when her family shows up, he continues the deceit, despite many, many opportunities to correct the situation. Even when she wakes up, he tricks her into thinking she had amnesia. In the end, he ends up with her sister.
To be clear: This is gross. This man should be in jail.
Why the Original Works: Sandra Bullock is the cutest token taker in the entire world, so her constant lying and scheming is more adorable than flat out awful. It also works because gosh darn it, she’s just a sad pretty lady! She doesn’t mean any harm!
New Plot Premise: A beautiful poor woman with a third-class ticket on the infamous doomed luxury liner finds love with a man from the upper decks who is on the verge of marrying an unlikeable gal for her money. However, he learns from the spirited young woman that money isn’t everything, as he throws off the shackles of his upper-crust life to discover the joy of the living. And then the boat sinks and he refuses to share his fucking door with her, so she freezes to death. The end.
Why the Original Works: In Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack is basically the Y-chromosome version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Kate Winslet’s Rose, the stuffy debutante. The initial role reversal worked because it painted Winslet as more of a character of pity rather than a gold-digger.
With the role reversal, a guy making the same decisions as Rose would come off as a callous asshole with no regard for anybody but himself.
New Plot Premise: Told by an older narrator to another resident in her nursing home, the story follows the tale of a poor girl who is kept from her true love by the boy’s rich parents. Eventually, the mean parents move the boy away, leaving the gal all by her lonesome.
But she doesn’t give up! In fact, she buys him a house, regardless of the fact that he is now engaged to someone else. But despite the years it takes to woo him, he finally, FINALLY comes around, and leaves the chick he settled for. And all thanks to the renovations she made on the house.
It is revealed that the elderly narrator was recounting the story of his love to her Alzheimer’s ridden wife in an effort to get her to recognize her family again.
Then they died. The end.
Why the Original Works: Another poor boy falls for a rich girl premise, but aimed directly at the audience’s heartstrings. Known to cause crying fits for women and sensitive men of all ages, The Notebook is a movie whose corporate sponsor should have been Kleenex.
That said, when the roles are reversed, the lady version of Ryan Gosling comes off as a delusional stalker. A romantic stalker, but don’t all stalkers think they are being romantic.