I’ve already seen Albert Brooks display lots of talent on the screen as an actor whether we only hear his voice or he brings a charm just from being present, yet I’ve seldom looked into what he’s done behind the camera. From this and Lost in America alone, I can already tell he has a sort of skill I have the feeling that I will grow to highly admire if I watch more of his films – as what I got out of Modern Romance was a most unexpected surprise. Modern Romance is a comedy that brings into question how relationships are to work, it’s more than simply a sweet story of love. What Albert Brooks presented was one of the most poignant stories of romance put to the screen, only to have been aided with how realistic these characters are.
Modern Romance isn’t so much of a romantic comedy like its title may suggest, but in a rather fascinating way, more a study of what’s complicated about how relationships go. It’s interesting especially as Albert Brooks knows how to incorporate as much truth as he possibly can into a seemingly simple film on the outside, but when we pick everything apart bit by bit, there’s so much more that just makes Modern Romance work so splendidly. It brilliantly understands the self-loathing that comes by especially amidst a relationship, which adds more to what makes Modern Romance work so well – the characters are written in such a genuine fashion to the point they are not merely characters anymore, they are actual people coping with hardships and right there, more wonders arise.
It’s funny, but it’s also in the strangest sense because the humour comes out from the nuances present in how much truth there is to how complicated a relationship is. Whereas films like Annie Hall were to explore the imperfections of relationships within offering a unique narrative, Modern Romance shows a specific standpoint that aims for how the emotions of the human soul are complicated through what they believe to be the love that they desire. There’s humour amidst the discomfort, but the raw truth to it all just adds more to its overall effectiveness. When the ending hits, it creates a more uncomfortable vibe because uncertainty comes along with what will happen next.
Dialogue feels all so fresh, inside of a script that was penned by Brooks and Monica Johnson. From listening to how the actors recite their lines, the naturalistic feel of the language that comes out of their mouths is where Modern Romance offers something more than what could be expected of it in the first place. It’s funny, but also poignant, sad, and it’s also a rather intelligent script for just how surprisingly insightful it is, not towards love, but also towards jealousy. Under Brooks’s direction, the excellent script adds more to fully realize the emotions of the caricatures which have been formed for such a film, and thus more brilliance is allowed to shine on the screen.
Albert Brooks’s charm also adds more to what makes his leading performance as the nervous Robert Cole so mesmerizing, but even as he works behind the camera, it’s clear that he has a sense of direction that understands how to get down to the bare bones of the emotions from his actors, even himself. It’s clear from watching a film like Lost in America that he knows how to play along as a means of creating something just merely entertaining but with Modern Romance, something more intelligent than I’d have thought came along. Everywhere in Modern Romance, truth is shown on the screen, and there is never a single moment to which it lets go of such an idea.
Modern Romance drew me back to watching Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage, in which Bergman explores a deteriorating marriage over time, for Albert Brooks displays the dynamics of the emotions left to come out from relationships. I knew Albert Brooks had talent already from his onscreen presences as an actor, but I’d never have thought as a director he could have formed such incredible nuances much like what’s offered in here. It’s funny, honest, smart, and hard-hitting, all in the places where it needs to be. This isn’t so much a film about a relationship as opposed to a film placing the viewers within a perspective of a relationship, for Modern Romance is the experience of living within such circumstances.
Watch a clip right here.
All images via Columbia Pictures.
Directed by Albert Brooks
Screenplay by Albert Brooks, Monica Johnson
Produced by Andrew Scheinman, Martin Shafer
Starring Albert Brooks, Kathryn Harrold, Bruno Kirby
Release Year: 1981
Running Time: 93 minutes
It’s a bit too cynical for my taste, but it is an interesting movie. I admired its guts. Brooks is trying to both mock/reinvent the Hollywood romcom and explore the attitudes of the 1970s. As you said, a really fascinating movie about relationships.
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