Marty Vs Every Romantic Comedy

There is, perhaps, no sub-genre of film that is as rife with cliché as the romantic comedy. I would argue that anyone can name at least one rom-com that they, despite any good reason, love to watch. It is the film version of young love, pulling on the collective heartstrings of an audience full of saps, this of course includes myself. The film industry has discovered what makes our emotions tick, and they have exploited our weakness. It is a well known fact that two people who hate each other at first will, after a series of misunderstandings and misadventures, learn to see eye to eye and then fall madly in love…right? Sadly (read: thankfully) this is almost never the case. The world moves much faster than 24 frames a second. In the vast ocean of the genre, there are a few movies that defy the norm, none more so than the 1955 Best Picture Academy Award winning Marty.This is a short list of rom-com norms that this charming, down to earth film, defies.
Opposites attract
The classic rom-com formula gives us the idea that two people that have absolutely nothing in common must be destined to fall madly in love. In Marty the two love interests have just about everything in common. Marty (Ernest Borgnine) and Clara (Betsy Blair) are awkward. Neither one is attractive, both are refereed to as “dogs”. The second we see Clara on screen (Shortly after being dumped at the dance by her blind date), we instinctively know that her and Marty are perfect for each other, it’s a truth that the film makers do an excellent job of portraying the us with very little dialogue. Where most modern romantic comedies would save the romantic payoff for the end of the film, here we are treated early on with two characters who share such perfect chemistry right off the bat. Much like in life, the majority of relationships start out with excitement and near uncontainable joy. This sentiment is expressed on Marty’s face as he enthusiastically calls for a taxi after dropping Clara off at home after their first date, you can practically hear his heart pounding behind his ribs. He is, much like I was the day I proposed to my wife, ecstatic.
                       Leading Characters must be attractive
This is pretty much a staple of all films. People are drawn to attractive people, so it stands to reason that movies, particularly ones dealing with love, would want to give you characters that you could find yourself falling in love with (the idea of the person, not the actor themselves, though that certainly has become a prevalent problem). Marty has to deal with the fact that he’s almost 40 and is still single, he’s fat and not particularly handsome, yet when he meets Clara, his friends laugh at him for falling for a “dog” saying that he can do better than “that”. And while this leads to certain conflicts within the film, it ultimately doesn’t stop Marty who realizes that he is honest to goodness, truly, wholly in love with this girl. These characters are unattractive, and for that they are more loveable than any character in a modern day rom-com. Film is obsessed with beauty. It’s a visual media, and for that reason so many film makers have decided that a film risks failure should they use anything less than perfection.
The relationship between the two love interests is the driving force for the romantic drama
Relationships and interaction between characters has always been a terrific force in drama, which is where this genre gets most of it’s momentum. There are two people who hate each other, and we watch as their attitudes slowly change into love. But in Marty the equation is expanded to every character in the film, giving them massive influence in the mind of Marty. Opinions are voiced by the aging mother, cousin, best friends, neighbors, and customers. Marty is much closer to relate to than most characters in film today. He has a normal job in a butcher shop, he has a close circle of friends, and he loves his family. Naturally those forces would come into play in real life when introducing the element of a girlfriend, and we certainly see the struggle that it puts in Marty’s mind, perhaps the same struggle you may have endured at one point in life.
As a study in human nature, Marty excels above other films in it’s genre. It exchanges the glam and glitz of standard romantic movies and tells you the story of an ordinary guy finding an ordinary girl. Marty and Clara could just as easily be any member of the audience. We see the two having fun on their first date, We see how they have to deal with the criticisms from his friends and family, and the movie shows, like all rom-coms, that love conquers all.