Romantic comedy is one of the most prolific and famous genres in movie history in spite of being the one with the least amount of innovation. Nowadays, most movies of this genre follow a painfully predictable pattern, a phenomenon that has been taking place for years and yet has done nothing to harm the genre´s popularity. Everybody knows, walking into the theater, that the protagonist and their romantic interest will have a meet-cute in an unlikely place; audiences know that they will hate or mistrust each other initially but will quickly discover that they have a lot of things in common, the movie trailer will probably spoil the inevitable fallout that marks the beginning of the third acts with a dramatic phrase such as “I knew I couldn´t trust you” followed by the very familiar “It´s not what it looks like” and the protagonist running away in tears, by the end it will come to no surprise that the characters finally take half a second to explain what had happened before and then be happy forever.
People have been watching the same actors as they portray the same characters while telling the same stories for decades. The genre has become so formulaic that one would have been justified in wondering if there was, indeed, no better way to tackle a romantic comedy. But then the odd screenplay comes around that subverts the genre and delivers a nice, unpredictable and exciting love story that may not have the same wide appeal as the formulaic kind but definitely deserves to be made as a reminder of all the genre has yet to give.
Here's My Card is one of those rare ones that subverts the expectations of its genre to surprise the reader with refreshing characters and beats that may lead to a familiar ending but does so by taking wild roads untraveled to keep the journey entertaining.
Here´s my Card is a short script that depicts the meet-cute, the falling in love and the implied happy ever after of a young couple who meet in a very unlikely scenario. The story starts by introducing the male lead as he runs away from a crime scene… his crime scene, to be precise. After robbing a bank, he has managed to put a lot of ground between the police and himself, but the risk of being recognized by law enforcement, either by descriptions of his face or by the duffle bags full of money that he´s still carrying, still lingers. In order to avoid capture, he takes a gamble and starts following a passerby around in an effort to look less like a sweaty thief and more like a sweaty stalker. The funny thing is that his plan works, which could even be construed as unintended social criticism right there; as it is less likely to attract police attention as long as it seems you´re just stalking a woman on the streets.
The jogger is, of course, the female lead who, instead of feeling threatened or outright annoyed by the male lead´s pretend advances, decides to toy around with him and figure out what hides behind his very cheesy flattery and flirting. The initially awkward exchange turns into a battle of wits as the leads become more and more intrigued by their counterpart and start exchanging riddles and challenges, sort of like that part in the Hobbit where Bilbo and Smaug have a def comedy jam battle of wits… in the book, not the movie. By the end, the female lead knows pretty well that the guy is a thief and is carrying quite a large sum of money, but rather than being disgusted, intimidated or inclined to turn him in; she provides him with a means of contacting her later. The male lead has managed to get away and evade detection by the police, and in a fortunate twist of fate, he now has a date with a surprisingly interesting and self-possessed woman.
The script wastes not a single beat to bring the characters back together as they continue exchanging witty banter and getting to know each other better by expertly sifting through the lies and misdirection with which they embellish their conversation. The date becomes a little tense when the couple happens upon a police patrol, which makes the male lead feel rather uncomfortable. In order to rid her date of his fear and to show him, there can be trust between them; the female lead does something risky and unexpected. Instead of distracting the police or helping the man to hide, she approaches the patrol and asks them to recommend a good restaurant where they may finish their date as if they were just a cute, young, innocent couple strolling around. The officers swallow the lie hook, line and sinker and tell them where to go. The male lead now knows that he´s not at risk of being recognized and that his partner has no proclivity to turn him in. With his fears assuaged, the date can continue, and so they walk off scot-free; a pair of lovely criminals, brought together by chance, joined eternally by a dark secret.
The script is a perfect subversion of the romantic comedy formula. On the one hand, it delivers the familiar beats that have become a staple of the genre but show that there is no need to copy, paste and repaint old scenes. The characters do have a meet-cute during an unlikely scenario, but for the first time in forever, it is not just an office party or town fair.
The characters don´t have to hate each other initially either; the leads here immediately click and start playing off of each other. Other movies try to make them hate each other or clash in many ways for two reasons. One to pad the length of time and milk the drama. Two, in order to make their love feel hard-earned and deserved. Perhaps the short format chosen by the author of Here´s my Card forced them to optimize the flow of the relationship, and optimize they did, managing to do away with a lot of the unnecessary fluff that bogs down mainstream entries of the genre.
Another example of this optimization is the way in which the relationship gets tested. Most movies tend to do so by forcing the characters into some sort of easily clarified miscommunication and then having them become bumbling messes who can´t speak the two phrases needed to solve the issue. Their fight is forced to go on for the majority of the third act until a third party comes and clarifies things for them, letting the leads come back together and reaffirm their love for each other. Here there´s none of that forced idiocy or overextended drama. The characters face a truly difficult situation, and they handle it with grace and alacrity. When the shadow of fear takes over the male lead, who doesn´t know whether he can trust his partner or whether he´ll be recognized and sent to jail, the female lead takes the reigns and manages to assuage his fears right away. For once! An author who understands something that most rom-coms fail to show; that relationships are supposed to be about a couple fighting a problem together, not about that couple fighting against each other. It is a bit disconcerting that the way to convey that is by showing how a thief and his accomplice make a mockery out of the police, but hey! from a romantic point of view, the script is a magnificent representation of what the genre desperately needs.
The only gripe or flaw that stands out when reading the script has to do with the dialogue. And it shouldn´t even be called a flaw. Basically, the quippy, witty, jesty and cynical tone is not for everyone. There are people who will love the way in which the characters are constantly throwing jabs at each other and appreciate the old-timey, sweet-talking cadence with which the male lead expresses himself. But based on a lot of previous experience, it is easy to predict that a lot of people will find the dialogue exhausting and too complex. Sadly, the market is full of consumers who have grown used to having every beat explained to them in basic terms and every twist and turn spoon fed, so they don´t have to think. The dialogue in this script requires the audience to pay attention to keep up with the witty characters, and that is bound to ruffle some feathers. As long as the author is aware that they are trading mass appeal for uniqueness and identity, they should do well and not be surprised at the rather modest audience that the story could gather… modest when compared to other mainstream, formulaic and easily digestible movies in the genre.
In summary. Here´s my Card is a very entertaining romantic comedy that goes down a traditional path but not by walking; instead, it jumps, dives, summersaults and polka dances to the end. If ever produced, it will baffle and enchant audiences in equal measure.
Review written by Rafael Rodriguez