The Lost City (2022) : a romantic comedy in disguise
When I started this blog, one of the films I reviewed was The Proposal where Sandra Bullock is the perfect romcom anti-heroine. She’s back as a romcom leading lady in The Lost City. She is Loretta Sage, a romance novelist kidnapped by a businessman who believes the treasures she writes about are true. The Lost City is marketed as an adventure-action comedy but it is a romcom. I believe if a woman would have directed it, it would be marketed as a romcom because it has all the makings of a romcom. It is directed by two men, Aaron and Adam Nee, so it is called action-adventure although romance is central to it. To prove my point, The Lost City is all about Loretta Sage and Alan, her cover model. They are both really loveable and funny. They seem to not be able to stand each other. She doesn't like him, he has a secret crush on her. Romcom vibes anyone ?
The first thing I love about it is how much life Sandra Bullock gives to her character. Loretta is smart, independent and, most importantly, flawed. She is a real woman. You could imagine meeting a woman like that. She is not a cookie cutter version of women. She is so particular that it makes her real and relatable. Who never wanted to hide in a bathtub with a nice drink instead of facing the outside world?
Although it is directed by two men, Dana Fox is part of the screenwriters that delivered the story. Sandra Bullock is also a producer. Researching the film, I discovered she passed it at first because she felt the project was outdated after being in development for seven years. I can only imagine that she had some influence over her character development.
Her chemistry with Channing Tatum who plays her cover model, and admirer, Alan reminds you of some of the most iconic screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn’s roles are gender-swapped.
The dynamic between the two is so refreshing. Channing Tatum's Alan really impressed me. He is so much more than meets the eye. He is not the dark tall man or the smart nerdy guy. He is an actual human being with his own fears and flaws. He is self conscious about his lack of knowledge but he cares about her. He tells her she looks like a 'human mummy' but feels very bad about it. Everyone makes fun of him for the rest of the film because mummies are human. He goes on this adventure because he loves her and wants to make things right. He wants to be the kind of hero he is modelling as on the covers of her novels.
I really like how we get a flavour of his flaws when we meet Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt). He is the kind of man Alan wants to be. Despite his best efforts, he is clumsy, eager and not a fighter. He is sensitive and doesn't see what he has to offer. I like how they picture him because we need more depictions of sensitive men, flawed men, insecure men, real men beyond toxic masculinity norms. He is the perfect actor to embody that too. You wouldn’t expect that from the guy who’s known for Magic Mike!
Because he is not the macho adventure hero Loretta believes he is, she is called out on her prejudice. She thinks he is brainless and a failed actor who only has his body to be proud of. Women too can judge based on looks, who hasn’t judged a guy and put him in a box before getting to know him at some point? It’s good that they acknowledge that too and play on the audience's expectations. I like how she realises it and learns to see him as a human being. Their chemistry is off the charts. You weirdly believe in them. It’s funny and entertaining.
Despite the adventure flavour, their relationship is the main subject of the film. As many romcoms before, The Lost City also has a unique troublesome situation. Remember in The Proposal when Margaret blackmails Andrew to marry her and then has to get to know his family?
Here, Loretta gets kidnapped and Alan runs to rescue her but always falls a little bit short. Meanwhile, we enjoy their time running from Abigail Fairfax's men, camping, exploring and slowly falling for each other. The lightbulb moment is when Loretta realises that the crown of fire is not a priceless jewel but a metaphor of for the eternal love between the king and queen. Loretta who we meet after her husband died is at the final stage of her journey of grief. This is the moment she can open herself to life again. The film also has a very nice 'relationship in jeopardy' moment. Just after Loretta comes to peace with herself, she is stuck with Alan in a grave. Fairfax left them there after he discovered there was no jewel. Of course, they escape and are picked by Beth, Loretta's publicist and funniest sidekick ever!
If you need any more convincing that The Lost City is a romcom, their adventure become one of Loretta's romance novels! Surprised? The marketing shows that romance is still too often reserved to women when men should also own the romcom label. It should not mean that a film is considered as 'low-quality' if it is labelled as a romantic comedy.
It proves romcoms will always rise from their ashes. And that, there is still some sexism associated with romcoms since men are not willing to label their films as such even when they are. Hopefully, The Lost City will slowly help changing minds!