Video of the Day


Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

« In Which We Are Trying To Figure Out What It Is »

A Time To Break Up


It's hard out there for a defender of romantic comedies. Over the last few years rom coms have ceaselessly lived up to their reputation for spoon-feeding the fairer sex and their reluctant male companions harmless, predictable drivel. Katherine Heigl falling into Jon Bon Jovi’s arms after one or two missed text messages? Mind-blowing. Like mild cheese on a Ritz cracker.

Which is why you should disregard the frequent categorization of Albert Brooks’ low-lying film 1981 Modern Romance as a romantic comedy. It is, but it’s not simply the mental equivalent of a basket of beribboned puppies.

Brooks directs himself as an utterly unlikeable film editor, the anthropomorphic intersection of narcissism and neurosis. Think Woody Allen meets Napoleon, but tall. The first 20 minutes of the film contains what is arguably the best break up in movie history: Brooks’ character Robert takes his long-suffering girlfriend, Mary (played by the great Kathryn Harrold) to a diner and begins to unweave their relationship like only a true crackpot can.

Mary orders a chef salad and Robert a “mushroom omelette, very little butter, with whole wheat toast, dry, and butter on the side.” (Which was later totally swagger-jacked by When Harry Met Sally.)

Robert begins before the food arrives: “I don't feel real good lately and I'm trying to figure out what it is and I think it's probably us." Then he backtracks and starts up again until Mary finally runs out yelling, “Don’t call me again like last time!”

In a conventional rom-com, the diner scene would be the narrative gunshot that starts Mary off to find her true soulmate.

But instead it cuts to a denial-rich Robert at home, two quaaludes downed, turning off the light only to proclaim ten seconds later “I can’t sleep!”, falling off the bed, turning on a terrible remix of Beethoven’s 5th and slurring “Music is the healer of the soul!” - like a preexisting spoof of the emo-puddle John Cusack plays in High Fidelity - before stumbling into the wall. He makes his way painfully to the couch and flips open his Rolodex, where he utters the simultaneously hilarious and devastating line: “Just look how many friends I have!”

The entire movie follows the pattern outlined in the very first scene - Robert and Mary break up. They get back together. They break up again. Robert swings like a pendulum, and Mary invariably takes it.

At some point it becomes clear this is the great romance of the movie. It doesn’t get better. It’s dark, undoubtedly abusive, and painfully funny. If you want easily swallowed, rent a Meg Ryan flick. But remember, in real life she’s divorced with lips the size of hot dog buns.

Lauren Bans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing at GQ here.

"I'll Provide The Wine" - Tom Morgan (mp3)

"Mess With The Bull" - Tom Morgan (mp3)

References (4)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: copysniper
    In Which We Are Trying To Figure Out What It Is - Home - This Recording
  • Response
    I found a great...
  • Response
    Response: chats
    In Which We Are Trying To Figure Out What It Is - Home - This Recording
  • Response
    Response: America
    I found a great...

Reader Comments (3)

It's Kafka in Kalifornia with an Afro! Masterpiece. As is the companion piece, Lost in America. Mr (real name) Einstein is irritatingly under-valued
February 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteven Augustine
In Which We Are Trying To Figure Out What It Is chat77 about. - Home - This Recording. At chat77 some point it becomes clear this is the great chat77 romance of the movie. Nice
August 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChat77
In Which We Are Trying To Really Figure Out What It Is chat77 about. - Homepage - This Recording. At chat77 some point it becomes clear this is the great http://www.chat77.net/ chat77 romance of the chat movie. Thanx
August 15, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter77chat

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.