When the going gets tough, the tough watch rom-coms. Because really, what could be better than a romantic comedy to lift our spirits and let us get lost in a moment when everything’s right with the world? Rom-coms have gotten a bad rap lately (though the occasional surprise hit, like the delightful “Crazy Rich Asians” in 2018, reminds us that the genre’s not dead), but here are a handful, from near-recent history, that you might have missed — and that I guarantee will leave you smiling.
“The Big Sick.” Not entirely obscure — it was Oscar-nominated for its screenplay in 2018 — but if you didn’t see it then, see it now. Real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) and Emily V. Gordon wrote this movie about their unlikely and eventful courtship, and all I’ll say is that it’s impossible to watch it and not fall a little bit in love with Kumail (playing himself) and Emily (a sparkling Zoe Kazan) yourself. (Amazon, iTunes)
“Caramel.” Set in a cluttered Beirut beauty salon, Nadine Labaki’s delightful film, released in the U.S. in 2008, follows the various love troubles of the women who work and visit there. (They use traditional hot caramel for hair waxing; you can almost smell the sweetness.) You might think of “Steel Magnolias,” but in the best of ways; this is a chick flick with an enormous heart — yes, of course there’s a wedding — and an irresistibly happy ending. (Amazon, iTunes)
“Enough Said.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, so brilliant in TV’s “Veep,” was the best thing about the otherwise uneven “Downhill” last month — but she was in a much better movie back in 2013, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. “Enough Said” is that rarity: a beguiling romantic comedy about middle-aged people. Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in one of his final screen performances) play divorcées with grown children and wary hearts; it’s funny, warm and wise. (Amazon, iTunes)
“Jumping the Broom.” Sometimes you just need a super-pretty movie about an elaborate wedding, in which everyone wears fabulous outfits and gets their own subplot and has mild crises in beautifully appointed rooms before everything gets perfectly resolved. This is that movie, from 2011, set in beautiful Martha’s Vineyard and featuring the added bonus of Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine as dueling mothers of the bride and groom (Paula Patton, Laz Alonso) — along with a little romantic fantasy along the way. (Hulu, Amazon, iTunes)
“Lucky Them.” Want to see a thoughtful rom-com made right here in Seattle, and featuring an impossibly dreamy-looking neon-lit Capitol Hill? Here you go: Local filmmaker Megan Griffiths, whose films typically tend to skew a little darker (“Eden,” “The Night Stalker,” “Sadie”), made this tale of love and friendship in 2014, featuring Toni Collette as a Seattle music journalist and Thomas Haden Church as a would-be documentarian who helps her search for her ex, a local music legend who’s mysteriously vanished. It’s a gently funny, irresistible story anchored by two lovely performances, and by the idea that love is a process of trial and error. (Amazon, iTunes)
“Obvious Child.” Named for a Paul Simon song, this offbeat 2014 rom-com follows two very bad weeks in the life of Donna (Jenny Slate), an up-and-coming 20-something comedian who’s discovered, to her dismay, that she’s unexpectedly pregnant and isn’t ready to have a child. Not standard rom-com fare, to be sure, but Slate and writer/director Gillian Robespierre fill the film with warmth and wit; the movie’s a little messy (like life in your 20s) but immensely likable. (Netflix, Amazon, iTunes)
“Ruby Sparks.” Zoe Kazan, so delightful in “The Big Sick,” wrote and starred in this 2012 film, which has a gangbusters premise: A lonely novelist (Paul Dano), as a writing exercise, creates a charming young woman named Ruby Sparks — and is shocked when she turns up at his home, in the flesh. (“She doesn’t know I wrote her,” he tells his brother, desperation in his voice.) How can this possibly resolve itself? Watch and find out — and be charmed by one of the most original, joyful rom-coms you’ll ever see. (Amazon, iTunes)
“Their Finest.” This British film, directed by Lone Scherfig, was in and out of theaters in a heartbeat in spring 2017, and I don’t know why it didn’t catch on — it’s a sweetly nostalgic charmer, set in World War II-era London. Catrin (Gemma Arterton) and Tom (Sam Claflin) are screenwriters writing wartime propaganda films for the British government, and trying not to notice that they’re falling in love. (We notice.) I won’t promise that this one’s happy all the time, but it’s nonetheless a delight — and Arterton and Claflin give a master class in screen chemistry. (Amazon, iTunes)
And, should you need more titles, here are a few of my tried-and-true, watch-over-and-over, memorize-the-dialogue, omg-I-love-this-movie favorites: “500 Days of Summer,” “Amélie,” “Bull Durham,” “Groundhog Day,” “Moonstruck,” “Roman Holiday,” “Roxanne,” “Sense and Sensibility.” What are your favorites? We’ll get through this, with a little help from our movie friends.