I don’t know if it’s something to do with summertime or what, but these days all I want from a movie is a good laugh. I want to be entertained, I want to feel good, I want to be distracted from the stresses of everyday life. But I don’t find myself laughing if a movie is dumb or too slapsticky, or too too vulgar. So, if you feel like some lighthearted cinema, here are some suggestions spanning the last three decades:
1. Green Card
“In order to retain her beautiful rent-controlled Manhattan apartment, a beautiful, socially-conscious American woman (Andie MacDowell) has to be married, so she decides to marry a burly French composer (Gerard Depardieu), who is eager to earn a green card so he can stay and work in America.”Why don’t they make romantic comedies like this anymore? Maybe it’s just my massive girl crush on Andie MacDowell, but I found this a charming little story. (Also, early 1990s cinema is an interesting history-of-fashion lesson. Shapeless, ankle-length jumpers—did you know they actually were fashionable at one time?)
2. Girl Most Likely
One of many in the painful-reunion-of-dysfunctional-family-members genre, this one is much better than most of its peers. The film is guilty of some casting sins that are my pet peeves: the actress who plays the mom is only fifteen years older than the actress playing her daughter, and the same “mom” is only six years older than the “younger man” she is dating. Nevertheless, Kristen Wiig, Matt Dillon, and Annette Bening all are perfect in their roles, I think. The ending is goofy and implausible but hilarious and perfect and warmed my heart.
3. What to Expect When You’re Expecting
I wasn’t going to bother this one because it got horrible reviews. But then a very smart friend of mine recommended it, pointing out how it touched on huge life events she had been through—pregnancy, birth, infertility, adoption, miscarriage . . . . It’s all very lighthearted but still sensitive. It’s pretty goofy at times, but man, Chris Rock is so so funny (and, in this movie, you won’t have to wash your ears out with soap after watching him).
4. Mean Girls
This has become a quasi-classic but I only recently saw it. High school movies are kind of like sci fi to little, home-schooled me. Thrilling and terrifying and intriguing at the same time. All those cliques! Where would I have fit in? I like to think I would have been at least a band geek, but I’d probably be one of the Girls Who Eat Their Feelings. I’m making this sound depressing, but really, it’s funny and clever and ends on an upbeat note. Plus: Tina Fey wrote the screenplay, and co-starred along with Amy Poehler. What’s not to love?
5. Sixteen Candles
Speaking of high school flicks, can you belief this one came out thirty years ago? Thirty years??!! Was I the last one on earth to watch this? If not, I recommend it. It is filled with teenagers obsessing about sex. Still, there’s something innocent about it compared to more recent high-school themed movies (for instance, Easy A and Brick). It’s a fun blast from the past with a classic, oft-imitated romantic ending with Hollywood’s most perfect hunk.
6. It’s Complicated
Meryl Streep is so classy and wonderful and funny, playing a woman who finds herself in an affair with the loser she divorced long ago. Alec Baldwin is . . . well, his character brings several words to the tip of my tongue but I shan’t write them on Mary’s classy blog. Anyway, he plays a guy you love to hate. It made me gasp and cringe but mostly it made me laugh.
And with that, I wish you many laugh-filled evenings!
Laura is a Catholic Christian, a mother, a part-time lawyer, and a recovering overthinker. She writes monthly here at Atelier on books and culture, and blogs regularly at This Felicitous Life.