The title and premise of Sex Tape might make you think it’s a raunchy comedy. And maybe it is to a degree, but at its heart the movie is about married life. Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz play a couple whose relationship is a bit of a cliche, in terms of their sex life, albeit the kind of cliche that isn’t necessarily unrecognizable to millions of real legally bound partners around the world. Even more, though, the way they get along and genuinely like each other is also purely identifiable to the best of husbands and wives out there. As Kristy Puchko of Cinema Blend puts it, this is “a movie that’s not just incredibly funny, but also winningly relatable.”
In her defense of Sex Tape, Puchko makes the movie sound like the best comedic portrayal of marriage in years. At least the two years since Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, which has its problems but still does a great job of representing the comforts and discomforts of a modern couple in middle age. I’ll also go even further out on the limb for another recent movie starring Leslie Mann: The Change-Up. The body switch comedy is almost completely terrible, but there is a great point at its center involving how much or how little married partners know about each other, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of a bad union. A more brilliant (and funnier) take on the idea, is Jonathan Glazer’s Birth.
Most of the great marital comedies, though, can be found in the distant past, with classics of the 1930s in particular playing with newlyweds and separated couples alike — the latter formed a whole screwball rom-com subgenre known as the comedy of remarriage, where couples get back together before they can finalize their divorce. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne and later Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy paired up for many of the best and funniest earlier looks at spousal relationships.
Then there are the Thin Man movies, which showed how a man and woman could be plenty happy with she being the main breadwinner (or bread inheritor anyway), a situation that is still hard for real folks to work out with today’s increasingly changing income dynamics between couples. That series also hints that alcohol might be one way to keep a union a happy one, and I doubt a lot of real people would agree — at least in a positive sense, as opposed to the idea of drinking to put up with the spouse.
We could use more movies that make fun of but also celebrate marriage. Most rom-coms are about couples getting together and maybe ending with their wedding. A lot of movies about marriage, in contrast, are about their disintegration. The closest thing to a real movie about marriage today might be the new, sometimes funny HBO documentary 112 Weddings, which doesn’t offer a lot of fresh news on the subject but is at least relatable, because it is after all real.
But one comedy that I think has some really nice married life moments is When Harry Met Sally, which we’ve been honoring this week for its 25th anniversary. It’s primarily about the getting together of its title duo, but the supporting characters played by Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher are a wonderful representation of marriage. The movie also shares true stories of real elderly folks (performed by actors), who will always be my favorite depiction of married couples.
What is the best comedy about marriage?
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