top of page

Love in Echo Park

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

It's hard work

In the last Century, which has been short from many points of view, but certainly not as far as audiovisual is concerned, we have tried several times to renew the romantic comedy, a miraculous genre that, when it's right, usually guarantees results at the box office. If it is at least since the 1930s (according to authoritative critics, such as David Thompson, it happened one night by Frank Capra that defines the canons of the genre), that the authors have been working on stories able to dose romantic and sentimental elements. The first innovations appeared in the decade of counter-culture, when, first with the directors of New Hollywood (Peter Bogdanovich), then with Woody Allen, they tried to insert more sophisticated and quoting elements into the story.

Falling in love - this seems to have been taught to us by American cinema for at least 40 years - is above all a mental question and, it goes without saying, a tremendous effort.

Minimal stories

In contemporary American cinema, great comedians with an instantly recognizable style seem to be missing, except for Jordan Peele's racial satires (in my opinion, too grotesque and ideologized to really get a laugh), and especially Judd Apatow.

With Woody Allen, in addition to common Jewish origins, Apatow shares a taste for apparently minimal stories, where the protagonists struggle with decidedly hostile environments to build their own identity, first of all affective. Environments from which they are unable to free themselves,

Think of the masterpiece Annie Hall, 1977 by Allen, a chronicle of a neurotic relationship in the America of early cable television and disco music, where, for the first time in the history of cinema, narrative twists are a confrontation on Kierkegaard's role in Bergman's cinema (!), or a giant spider that terrifies the protagonist, Diane Keaton, in the middle of the night, and forces Woody Allen to run to her, despite having decided to stop seeing each other. .

Obviously, in Woody Allen's film, it is the director-author who acts as the star, unlike Judd Apatow who seems to prefer to work behind the camera, directing and showrunning. In Annie Hall, Allen's character is present in almost every scene, telling his sentimental story in the first person: a style of story that will then be used, in a quite baroque way in Manhattan only two years later. (think of the famous voice over at the opening on notes of Rapsodia in blue), The language of the romantic 70s Woody Allen will evolve first into the mumblecore sub-genre (minimal stories, shot live and with essential budgets, such as Quiet City, 2007), and later in the cinema of Greta Gershwig (Frances Ha is Manhattan for women, forty years later).

A hole in the schedule

Love by Apatow is the extraordinarily successful attempt to tell a minimal story, showing two characters, victims of show business and of a city of pure appearance, such as Los Angeles, previously unable to love and confess their weaknesses (they approach, yes they refuse, tempted to reject themselves), but who can do nothing but give in to the feeling.

The protagonist, Gus (Paul Rust, also author), who curiously resembles the New York director, is the typical "midwestern nice": an "aspiring something" who arrived in the mecca of cinema after college, but who, several years later, finds himself to tutor an unbearable child actress on the set.

Co-star Mickey is a radio producer, who continues to ignore her own drug and alcohol problems, and fails to realize that, by now, all her friends settled down, while she, in her 30s, alternates sex with an almost cocaine addict boyfriend who lives with his parents.

Like in Annie Hall, it seems to be the environment that makes the love of the protagonists impossible: Mickey experiences relationships as yet another consumer product, just to fill a gap in the schedule.

Gus, on the other hand, seems to be condemned to the role of condescending mentor to a spoiled little girl, when perhaps the secret of his professional and sentimental affirmation lies in showing his nails and collapsing his facade of kindness, which allows him to get some work but not to get in touch with his true aspirations.

Love, owes its exceptionality to a corollary of memorable characters - from Mickey's Australian roommate, bewildered and unable to lie, to Gus's friend who has been trying to be a stuntman for years- aware of their distance from the myths of success for which they arrived in LA, but nevertheless manage to be honest and cohesive.

In post lockdown times, a feel good show is always good. Especially if you've just been dumped on whatsapp and need to regain some empathy (but not your ex, please).

Michele Furfari is an author and television writer. Graduated from the National Film and TV School (NFTS) in London and student of the RAI Fiction graduate school, he has developed projects for the national and international market.  

8 views0 comments


bottom of page