As story, it’s “Thunder Road” inverted, which I think is fun. But as cinema, it’s a sweet rom-com aimed right at the sweet spot in the rom-com marketplace: People who are ten years late to the wedding chapel. Showing how to make that kind of romance endure happily will prove to be a growth industry.
In preference to thinking about Trump, I thought up a story like that in the shower yestermorning, and in the process thought about a way to build a #MyKindOfBenedy content machine.
First the yarn, a 90-minute feature:
Mister Peterson’s Dowry – a romantic comedy of manners and marriage
The chorus, revisited repeatedly throughout, is a couple in formal attire making passionate love in a snowed-in car. We see their furtive frenzy progressing against windows blanketed in snow.
The couple is rushing home from their participation in a wedding party – rushing in the vain hope that they will miss the snowstorm. When they become trapped and are obliged to wait, they are thereby engaged in an encounter neither one can escape.
She’s 30 and the divorced mother of two kids. He’s 32, never married. They’re seeing each other exclusively, and she wants to know – in light of the matrimonial celebration – when he’s going to commit.
The ensuing conversation, fleshed out with flashbacks, is his negotiation of the terms on which he will marry her: “You’re recruiting me. I’m not recruiting you. What do you have to offer me compared with what I’d be putting at risk?”
The story is male leadership in marriage, so he secures the dowry he needs to secure all of their futures, with the consummation of their love-making being the seal on their bond – their marriage.
And seven of those words – “the story is male leadership in marriage” – are the keys to the new content engine: A romance genre built around her yielding, in the third act, to his better judgement.
Said that baldly, it sounds both manipulative and palpably formulaic – and yet it is the inversion of this idea – him yielding to her – that is the basis for all genre romance fiction produced now, from bodice-rippers to rom-coms.
And this can be that, too, from fan-fics to Netflix, in any case, and it could completely redeem a flailing fem-focused cable channel. Imagine a style of romantic fiction that would be interesting to men, too, and yet still be eminently fulfilling for women.
Like everything else, the art of romance is upside down. Righting it is simply a matter of demonstrating why well-working real-life romances work so well: Because there is a man in charge. Telling that story – as many times as necessary – is #MyKindOfBenedy.