With predictable storylines, cookie-cutter characters and formulaic plot structure, it would seem that romantic comedies are on the verge of being played out. Studios often butt heads over the same trite concepts in films like No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits or resort to extremes to disguise a hackneyed plot, such as What Happens in Vegas.
Fortunately, director and USC School of Cinematic Arts alumnus Tim Story has managed to shatter the rom-com mold and bring a little originality into a slowly dying genre.
A self-proclaimed “dramedy” director, Story concerns himself with using real life as a basis for successful entertainment.
“I live for those moments where it’s just reality,” Story said. “If you can capture reality, that’s what makes people laugh.”
Story got a fairly early start on filmmaking. He obtained his first camera at the age of 12 and started shooting his own films before studying cinema more intensely at the high school level. SCA grabbed Story’s attention a bit prematurely — he applied to SCA in 10th grade and was initially turned down. But Story was eventually accepted into SCA and studied under one of his most influential professors, Drew Casper, providing him with the tools to further his own career.
“There’s a stamina that USC prepares you for, a stamina and a collaboration,” Story said. “Back then you couldn’t get film easily, and we all helped one another.”
But the relationship between Story and SCA wasn’t one-sided. Story’s background, which features directorial work on 1990s music videos for ’N Sync, Tyrese and Jagged Edge and several successful films such as Taxi, Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, adds a little more prestige to a film school with several successful alumni. However, Story’s first mainstream film Barbershop put him in a category of “atypical black directors” who create “black movies,” which Story refutes.
“I don’t make black films,” Story said. “I make movies that just happen to have black people in them.”
Story’s latest film, Think Like a Man, based off the book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment by Steve Harvey, follows a series of romantic storylines that are connected by friendships and the common goal of finding love in Los Angeles.
The movie starts off like many other romantic comedies, with women expressing their desires to find a suitable partner and men looking for a good time, but the plot quickly escalates to a battle of the sexes as the four heroines, played by Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good and Regina Hall, stumble across Harvey’s love manual and attempt to apply it to their own lives. When the guys catch on to their scheme, the film quickly turns into a hilarious portrayal of relationships that is both realistic and tinged with conventional Hollywood drama.
“I read the script and just laughed out loud,” Story said. “I have a weird sense of humor. Barbershop and this movie were my sense of humor. I like to laugh, and when I find material that makes me laugh, it’s great.”
Story’s humor is anything but weird. Think Like a Man provides one of the most genuinely hilarious films since the release of the critically acclaimed Bridesmaids (2011). Though you would expect stand-up comedian Kevin Hart to dominate many of the film’s humorous scenes, the cast gives off a striking comedic balance that keeps the audience guessing as to where the next joke will come from. In addition, cameos from stars, such as Wendy Williams, Kelly Rowland, Sherri Shepherd, Keri Hilson and Harvey, make the film fun and enjoyable.
Admittedly, much of the humor arises from the differing points of view of the film’s characters. By having an all-star cast to argue both female and male points of view, Think Like a Man sets itself apart from traditional romantic comedies that usually cater to a female audience.
“It’s one of the first movies that I’ve seen — or definitely that I’ve made — that tells the story from the guy’s point of view,” Story said. “That’s what I really liked about it. I only judge from the way the audience reacts, but there’s a lot on the screen that shows what guys think. It’s unfiltered.”
Though each character is different — Hart plays the oddball comedian while Michael Ealy plays a charming guy who is a bit of a dream chaser — all are extremely likable and startlingly realistic, which provides a worldly context for the character’s situations.
Hall, for example, plays Candace, a single mother who is looking for a man that will love her and her son, Duke. When she meets Michael (Terrence Jenkins), who is a bit of a mama’s boy, she finds someone who might appreciate her maternal endeavors just a little too much and, suddenly, what she wants most becomes her biggest problem.
The film draws on several of these pairings to comment on larger relationship issues within the real world.
Henson plays Lauren, a career-oriented CEO who is often called “manly” because of her professional success. Romany Malco plays Zeke, a womanizer figure, who uses sex to get over a broken heart. Good plays Mya, an intellectual young woman tired of using hooking up as a way to snag a man.
Think Like a Man’s hilarity serves as a way to comically acknowledge and provide helpful solutions for contemporary issues in relationships.
The only drawback? The continual laughter means losing some of the jokes.
Think Like a Man is now playing in theaters.