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The Ten Most Insufferable Rom-Com Protagonists Ever
That is not cute, Winona.
by James Brady Ryan
Rom-coms may not always be high art, but at their best they're charming, hilarious, and life-affirming. And perhaps more so than for any other genre, a rom-com needs to have likeable protagonists. When they're good, we fall in love. But when they're bad? You end up with these people.
1. Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff), Garden State
The quintessential rom-com sad-sack, Zach Braff's Andrew Largeman muddles his way through Garden State, encountering a parade of off-beat New Jerseyans who in no way resemble real people, while being taught how to really live, man. Sure, he has his reasons to be depressed — his mother just died, he's estranged from his father, and his career is a non-starter — but the truth about depression is that it's supremely boring. While Braff is dragged along on his journey towards actualization by an epileptic Natalie Portman, there's simply no reason to connect with his character, even if you'd sympathize with his plight on paper.
2. & 3. Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln), Love Actually
Of all the Brits that made up the sprawling cast of Love Actually, Keira Knightley and Andrew Lincoln as the cheerfully terrible Juliet and Mark are the most baffling. Juliet, who has just married Mark's best friend, has always believed Mark hated her, when in fact Mark maintained a chilly demeanor because he was in love with her. Despite the fact that Juliet seems perfectly happy with her spouse, and the fact that Mark is supposedly a good friend, they both seem perfectly willing to cuckold said husband — on Christmas, no less — after Mark draws up some cheap-looking cards he uses to seduce her in secret literally steps away from his friend. Naturally, she's super into it, despite having just gotten married and only recently figuring out that Mark doesn't hate her. It's probably best they find each other, because Chiwetol Ejiofor deserves much better.
4. Melanie Charmichael (Reese Witherspoon), Sweet Home Alabama
Reese Witherspoon is basically charm and pluck personified, but her character in Sweet Home Alabama is less "loveable" and more "unbearable." The plot of the film hinges on the fact that Melanie is wrongfully ashamed of her Southern roots; she goes on a tear of holier-than-thou self-satisfaction that would turn anyone off. Nothing says "likeable lead" like drunkenly calling your family and the people you grew up with redneck hicks and then outing your childhood friend. And then, when she finally grows up, sees the light, etc., she leaves her fiancé on their wedding day. Well done, Melanie.
5. Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder), Reality Bites
When characters in romantic comedies go wrong, appealing traits like "feisty" and "independent" often veer off into the land of near-psychosis. Take Winona Ryder's Lelaina from Reality Bites. She meets Ben Stiller's Michael when she throws a cigarette into his convertible, laughs at him, causes him to crash, and then laughs at him some more. This is not the sort of thing that gets you a date in the real world — it's much more likely to get you sued, or maybe arrested. It's not surprising that they eventually break up, but the real question is why they ever got together in the first place.
NEXT: Joseph Gordon-Levitt at his least appealing.