Romantic comedies are an odd lot. You walk in knowing full well how the film is going to end, so there’s never any real suspense (though the films always pretend there is). For example, in Addicted to Love, Sam (Matthew Broderick) and Maggie (Meg Ryan) share the common bond of wanting to get back with or at their ex-lovers, but wind up falling in love themselves. Is there any doubt? No. So what makes a good romantic comedy? To start out, lets look at the characters and their chemistry together. Not only do they have to be likable enough together to make the audience root for them, but somehow they have to make it believable that they are the only ones who don’t realize they are perfectly matched.
Lets start with Sam. He’s a small town astronomer with a beautiful lifelong girlfriend, Linda (Kelly Preston), a schoolteacher with a yearning for bigger things. When she goes on a two month trip to New York, Sam is distraught. When she doesn’t return, he is even more so, and begins a quest to find her. He eventually discovers that she has moved in with a new boyfriend, the French chef Anton (Tcheky Karyo). Sure that this is a passing fling, he secretly sets up watch in the abandoned building across the street from Anton’s apartment, charting their affair as if it were an astronomical event.
Enter Maggie, Anton’s old fiancee. She’s a tough girl (as evidenced by the fact that she drives a motorcycle), who doesn’t want to get back with Anton…she wants revenge. She moves into Sam’s building uninvited, and recruits him in her efforts to destroy Linda and Anton’s relationship.
Now Sam’s a likeable guy, and Maggie’s a likeable girl. Sam’s love for Linda and Maggie’s obsession with revenge provides the necessary obstacle that will prolong the movie. So what is it that keeps Addicted to Love from being a perfect romantic comedy? And here the true key to the romantic comedy is discovered: the vast plain between the setup and the inevitable conclusion. This gap has to be filled in such a way that keeps the viewer amused and diverted until the finale.
Addicted to Love fills the gap with sophomoric its revenge plot, and, unfortunately, a little of this goes a long way. Not only are the sequences tedious, but they cause you to lose sympathy for Sam and Maggie. If the pair weren’t played so congenially by Broderick and Ryan, their whole affair might have been a lost cause.
First-time director Griffin Dunne doesn’t provide any surprises. The film’s camera obscura (the device which projects Anton’s apartment upon a wall in the abandoned building) provides the film’s only out of the ordinary visual element. And although his direction isn’t distracting, that might have helped divert some attention away from the ludicrousness of the plot.
Still, Broderick and Ryan are interesting to watch together. Perhaps someday a better romantic comedy might be built upon that foundation.