Faith, Family and Tapioca Take Center Stage in New in Town
- Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Romantic comedies have long been the comfort food of the cinematic world. And really, as long as the dashing leading man and his ideal counterpart, the gorgeous leading lady, end up living “happily ever after” by the time the credits roll, most moviegoers will leave happy—and satisfied.
Of course, countless variations of the basic boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-overcome-insurmountable-odds-to-be-together-again premise have been served up to feed the public’s insatiable appetite for love prevailing against all odds. So much so that the writers responsible for recent flicks like The Holiday and Stranger Than Fiction have actually let audiences know they’re in on the joke.
In The Holiday it was the moment when the subtle nuances of how movie couples “meet cute” were explained to Kate Winslet’s lovesick character, Iris Simpkins. Then when Dustin Hoffman (as Professor Jules Hilbert) is trying to help Will Ferrell’s Harold Crick determine if he’s currently in a “comedy or a tragedy,” Hoffman smartly points out how most potential love interests in comedies will loathe the very sight of each other when they first meet, but will eventually end up getting hitched.
Even as unlikely as these scenarios are in “the real world,” it’s a formula that delivers the perfect escapist entertainment that movie audiences crave again and again. But every once in a while, there’s a rom-com that manages to switch things up a little—and offer the audience something a little more substantial in the process.
Don’t Judge a Movie by Its Trailer
At first glance, however, the pairing of Bridget Jones herself, Renée Zellweger, and musician/actor Harry Connick Jr. in New in Town didn’t exactly seem groundbreaking.
Seemingly following that same, if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it course, you’ve got the cool, stiletto-sporting business exec from Miami (Zellweger) who is forced to rough it in chilly, small-town Minnesota for those funny, fish-out-of water moments. But to prevent the fix-the-factory-before-jetting-back-to-Miami proceedings from getting too boring, there’s an annoying, but surprisingly cute guy (Connick) to provide the necessary distraction and a chance for true love, perhaps?
Beyond that simple set-up, there was something deeper that inspired screenwriter Kenneth Rance, a committed Christian, to share this particular story with the masses.
Sparked by a late-night conversation with an attractive women who was “clearly not a local” in a club outside of his Minneapolis hometown, Rance learned she was actually from North Carolina but living in New Ulm, Minnesota (population 13,595) as an executive at a food plant. While chatting, she told Rance about the pressures of climbing the corporate ladder, dealing with locals and trying to earn the respect, not to mention the loneliness of being new in town.
“At the moment, I knew her story was a movie,” Rance says. “I didn’t write the script right away. But I carried the story with me for quite awhile. I’ve always believed that the best stories are true stories.”
While it took 16 years for the story to make its way to the big screen, Rance is particularly happy that the final cut retained the warm and Christian-based community values of New Ulm, even throughout the revision process with fellow screenwriter C. Jay Cox (Sweet Home Alabama) and with input from the actors and director Jonas Elmer in his American film debut. “I wanted the story to be authentic and organic, complete with the town’s local accent, culture and language,” Rance says. “If a New Ulm resident were to see the film, I wanted them to be able to say I got it right.”
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