Nathan Rabin coined the very apt term Manic Pixie Dream Girl for the determined kind of free spirit that pervades current romantic movies and chronicled her well here and here. And the fine NPR folks at Pop Culture Happy Hour listed some other possible additions to the overused trope canon here. (Schlubby Screenwriter with Two Beautiful Babes to Choose From is an excellent choice.)
On the eve of One Day, that Anne Hathaway/Jim Sturgess movie I won’t link to because the trailer makes me angry, I have another addition to the possible canon: Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along.
Because Ladies, it’s ok to pine away for the one you love. He may be a shallow jerk and screw half the city but one day he will get tired, or his idol will give him a long speech of wisdom through experience, or his dad will die and he will learn that life is fleeting/what’s on the inside counts/you were the one who was always there for him and he will come running into your open arms.
“She made you decent. And in return you made her so so happy.” That’s a line from the trailer (still not linking to it, it’s googleable). So she was responsible for making him a better person and “in return” was fulfilled by his mere presence.
Nevermind that this friend is usually played by someone like Anne Hathaway, who the guy should be trying to nail from frame one. Unless it’s one of those ugly duckling stories where the girl takes off her glasses and suddenly she’s GORGES OMG!
Looking at the Wikipedia listing of romantic comedies, the most popular ending for Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along is that the object of her affection realizes what a wonderful and beautiful person she is and professes his love, only to be rejected as she moves on to his friend who has always seen her for the beauty she is, inside and out. (See: Sabrina, Bridge Jones’ Diary, While You Were Sleeping)
What the trailer for One Day seems to imply is that they wind up together in the end. So basically, just be nice (and patient) and that friend you’ve got your eye on will eventually come around. The female equivalent of the Nice Guy, except even more passive. And thus, I have put my finger on why the trailer fills me with rage.
Compare to My Best Friend’s Wedding, which plays with the trope and then dismisses it, DARING to leave Julia Roberts single when the credits roll. (Uh, spoiler alert?)
(Though I don’t look on the medium with disdain, I am hardly a romantic comedy aficionado a la Kelly Kapoor. However, I want to give props to Under the Tuscan Sun, which seems to be the only movie that works in a love interest like a deus ex machina, who drops in out of nowhere. But it’s GREAT. It’s about HER, not just her love life! You don’t have to wait for someone to get their shit together! Life goes on, even after you’re 25!)
ETA: BWAHAHA! Better Book Titles: One Day