Giving Richard Gere more acting opportunities than he can successfully model, pout, and brood through, Runaway Bride is yet another romcom where heterosexual people argue a lot and we’re supposed to believe they fall in love in the middle of that. Some marketing genius brought Richard Gere and Julia Roberts together again hoping to remake their legendary freshman outing. It kinda works.
But wait. Back up. Perhaps we can believe people fall in love while arguing (I also watched You’ve Got Mail in the same day and OH BOY are opinions incoming). But “belief” is something that Runaway Bride does not earn from me. It’s not even trying.
The whole plot is inoffensively flimsy. A dude writes a hate-article about a woman he’s never met, and her letter to the editor in response gets him fired. This is what locks them into this enemies-to-lovers relationship; he vengefully seeks her out to prove he was right. When I type it out like that, it sounds a lot more believable to me than the actual execution of the movie, where it’s hard to believe Gere has so little power (even with his ex-wife in charge) that he’s got zero job security, that a single woman complaining would make him lose his entire job, and that somehow he has to prove she really does suck in order to redeem himself.
The execution of throwing these two together really feels like “let’s get Gere and Roberts back in the same room, STAT,” and I half blame the script, half blame Gere for not attempting to rise to meet the material. *He* sure knows that his inclusion in this movie is a marketing thing, and that he doesn’t have to act *well* to secure his job. Gere is not actually in any risk. I don’t believe his character’s heart is at risk either, which makes me shrug at most everything they go through.
Things start turning from harassment to ~love~ when he’s the only person who doesn’t mock her at a wedding rehearsal. Previously he was actually kinda stalking her and I was wondering where this Cozy Small Town’s obligatory police force is because I think there’s a cuddly fatherly cop trope that could have removed Gere at any moment. Anyway, five seconds of respect from the one male human being in Roberts’s vicinity makes her fall in love with Gere.
Then Roberts makes out with Gere in front of her husband-to-be, hardcore, and she’s like, “Actually, I’m not going to marry my fourth fiance. I’m going to marry the man who came to town to harass me!”
Did I mention that Julia Roberts’s character flaw is being an extremely ADHD woman who stims in front of fans to try to emotionally regulate before a wedding, has poor social boundaries around men that make them think she’s flirting, and is generally the neurodivergence-coded manic pixie dream girl who actually probably needs adderall and therapy instead of another sudden marriage to a donghole? Elopement is literally a symptom.
So this turns into another movie where I’m kinda worried about the safety of the Quirky Heroine.
The thing with Runaway Bride is that I can see this movie tapdancing on *someone’s* buttons so much that they love it despite everything I said above. Because if you don’t care about the plot, watching them bicker playfully is cute. The hijinks are slapstick. Of course it ends up with them trying to get married; how else are we going to have Gere chasing Roberts in a wedding dress onto a Fedex truck? Roberts is *gorgeous* and I have done everyone a favor by not typing out the number of disgusting thoughts I have about my wife. Things are really cute, light, and funny in tone. There are wedding dresses! Multiple!
But this one manages to artfully dodge every single one of my buttons (I do love enemies-to-lovers at other times) so I personally found it didn’t work for me *at all*. When it ended, I turned to my sibling and said, “That was inoffensively flimsy. They just tacked stuff together to make those two interact.” And so those are the two words I leave with you: inoffensively flimsy.
Image credit: Touchstone Pictures