It is easy for the majority of the viewing public to be largely dismissive of the rom-com as a genre. Even those that profess an affinity for such films often feel the need to excuse their enjoyment as being a necessary source of escapism. Too often prestige is attributed to films that are seemingly more serious in genre, and therefore more worthy of intellectual development and pursuit. Yet, a romantic comedy is a far more complex narrative than first appearances may suggest. The genre, much-maligned for its predictability and questionable gender dynamics, is dependent on well-crafted characters, clear and realistic dialogue, and a central relationship that engages the viewer.
Yet, producers of romantic comedies regularly churn out repetitive, unimaginative and often problematic narratives aimed to simply generate money and appease audiences without any real desire to entertain. A successful, intelligent romantic comedy can exist, and many do, yet all too often when people discuss the genre they tend to refer to those lesser films that are entirely reliant on generic conventions.
Just Go With It, is one such film. A purported romantic comedy that succeeds in being entirely unfunny and utterly derivative. Adam Sandler, an actor who surely would not have found success now if just embarking on his career, apparently still commands enough attention to attract the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman to star with him. Sandler, working with the right director (such as P.T. Anderson in Punch Drunk Love) has demonstrated that he can convey complex, and developed characters, yet his performances are increasingly lacklustre.
His awkward brand of bawdiness only really worked in his earlier efforts, such as The Wedding Singer or Big Daddy, where the concept was charming enough to allow Sandler to demonstrate an apparent empathetic nature. In Just Go With It, his almost Machiavellian machinations in achieving a successful bachelor lifestyle are entirely unethical. The idea that we should somehow accept his treatment of women via a hackneyed backstory which features a ridiculous prosthetic nose and a cruel fiancée, is laughable, and lazy. Even more laughable is the idea that Aniston’s character, knowing Sandler’s character’s treatment of women, still apparently believes that this is a man who is both kind and capable of redemption. His character has, since his jilting at the altar, endeavoured to trick any woman he comes into contact with in order to sleep with them. It is only when a woman, who he finds supremely attractive, refuses to develop their relationship any further while he is still in a relationship, that he decides to alter his ways. Again, rather than simply admitting that his ruse of continuing to wear his wedding band was simply a means of gaining a woman’s sympathy (as well as an attempt to appear less predatory), he decides to continue his relationship by embarking on an increasingly complicated solution.
Paying Aniston’s character, and her children to pose as his family, he pretends that his relationship with Aniston is over, and he is thus free to embark on a new relationship. This ruse is, once again, used to gain sympathy, with Sandler calculatingly presenting himself as a caring father. This presentation wins him Aniston’s affections too, and the film concludes with the pair getting together. The pair, despite working together for multiple years, only end up together after they have been forced to act as a family. This is notable as, in reality, it means that the relationship between the pair, rather than being based on their many years of contact, has been borne out of a constructed reality, one that will not last.
Arguably, it is the very concept of Just Go With It, that leads to the film’s total lack of success. Even Aniston, a usually charming comedic actress, can do little to save it. It is strange then, that a genre so focused on serving women’s interests and largely marketed to a female audience, is one that serves them so poorly. Just Go With It tells us that if we suffer for long enough, we too can end up with a character like Sandler’s: a man who has spent the majority of his adult years attempting to rebuke the treatment he received at the hands of one woman. Seemingly, we are simply supposed to excuse his treatment of women, as, ultimately, he can be a good man. All it takes is a fake family, some major manipulation, and lots of money.