Hit & Run: The big romcom con

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The Independent Online

In order to prove that even the most wholesome screen experiences can damage one's mental health, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have published a study which "proves" that romantic comedies are just as bad for your love life as Grand Theft Auto is for your sensitivity to mindless, indiscriminate acts of violence.

Apparently, the romcom gives people unhealthy expectations about relationships. For one experiment, 100 volunteers sat down to watch Serendipity, which stars John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale as soul mates brought together by their chance purchase of matching gloves. Another 100 watched a David Lynch movie. The romcom viewers came out believing in, like, fate and predestined love and stuff. The others just needed a lie-down.

The research was rigorous: Pride and Prejudice was excluded from the study, for example, on the grounds that it is set during the 19th century and therefore would have less influence over an impressionable young 21st-century woman than, say, Maid in Manhattan. (No doubt readers of 1813 closed Ms Austen's book as convinced as Bridget Jones that they would meet their Mr Darcy, but this was felt to be irrelevant to a modern audience.)

The researchers' major mistake, however, was to pick 40 movies for the study that are, almost without exception, complete rubbish – including While You Were Sleeping, Fools Rush In and even, yes, Nine Months. May we humbly suggest a selection of more suitable viewing – romantic films that are a little less likely to leave you emotionally stunted.

If you want a John Cusack movie, why not pick High Fidelity? Cusack's character ends up with the right woman in the end, but only after he stops waiting for something better to come along. No love thunderbolts here; in fact, the most unrealistic thing about High Fidelity is that a girl as wonderful as Laura (Iben Hjejle) would wait around for her idiot boyfriend, Rob (Cusack), to grow up.

Jerry Maguire follows a similar pattern: Jerry (Tom Cruise) marries Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) for the sake of convenience – they work together, you see. Only after he takes her for granted, gets dumped, and realises that this whole marriage thing involves a bit of hard work, does he return in time to tell her that she completes him (OK, OK – that scene is a tad cheesy).

Lost in Translation, in which a lonely young woman (Scarlett Johansson) and a fading movie star (Bill Murray) fall for each other in a beautifully photographed Tokyo, ends without them ever having kissed, declared their feelings, or slow-danced in the rain. Murray does whisper something inaudible and potentially romantic in Johansson's ear as he leaves at the end, but you have to wonder whether Sofia Coppola, the writer-director, just ran out of interesting lines.

The films of Judd Apatow are also a good place to start for anyone wishing to free themselves from the conventional romcom's psychological shackles. Knocked Up demonstrates with some aplomb the sorry truth that any old fella can hitch themselves to a hottie if they manage to get her drunk and pregnant. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, meanwhile, suggests that said virgin (Steve Carell) would gladly settle for the first nice girl who comes along. Lucky for him, then, that the first nice girl to come along looks like Catherine Keener.

Finally, the perfect antidote to almost any of the study's 40 rubbish romantic comedies could be the also-slightly-rubbish "anti-romantic" comedy The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Aniston as warring exes. The twist? They actually stay broken up. Which is, sad to say, the most realistic ending of all. Tim Walker



A girl's guide to Tendulkar

I don't understand the rules of cricket, I'm not interested in it, and I've never had sentimental feelings for a man with quilted pads strapped to his legs. All that changed this week when I found myself agreeing with the view of all Indians; that Sachin Tendulkar is a bit of a demi-god.

It's not the batsman's perfect record that arouses interest, nor that Don Bradman viewed him as his natural successor. Sachy, 35, manages to do something that so many others find hard: he's brilliant on the pitch, without being an oaf away from it. Here, then, is a girl's guide to Sachin Tendulkar, minus the boring cricket stats.

1 He's small. Nothing extreme, but 5ft 5in, hence his nickname Little Master, a moniker all the more apposite for his roundish face.

2 He's articulate. After Monday's victory, Tendulkar dedicated his century to victims of the Mumbai massacre, adding, "The attack was on India not Mumbai ... and I'd like to dedicate this hundred to all the people who've gone through terrible times." Tricky to hit the right note here, but Tendulkar is elegant and heartfelt.

3 And, sorry ladies, he's married – not to an orange WAG but to a pediatrician at a Mumbai hospital, Anjali, with whom he has two children. And Tendulkar's offspring don't sound like they're the Indian equivalent of breakdancing Brooklyn Beckham. Once, goes a tale, his daughter's teacher told her class about a restaurant named after him. His daughter, miraculously innocent to the extent of father's fame, raised her hand and told the class that, yes, "Even my father's name is Sachin Tendulkar." Susie Rushton



Wills' beard is a Royal pain

Prince William was born only weeks after me and grew to the same height as me. We have the same colour hair, the same chunky jaw. He learnt to fly helicopters like me (OK, that bit's not true) and, recently, started losing his hair at the same pace as me. "Amusing" school friends would ask after "Granny" and call me "Prince". Then, about a year ago, I grew a beard and the comparisons stopped. Then, this week, Wills shows off a beard like mine while hunting in Norfolk. So baldy, one of our beards has to go – and mine came first... Simon Usborne

Plug the gap in your DIY skills

OK, chaps, now pay attention. It says here that 30 per cent of British men don't know how to wire a plug. What's that? Your new toaster came with a pre-moulded plug, did it? Fiddlesticks. There's no excuse for not knowing these things. Might come in handy one day. Or if your toaster stops working, for instance. It's really very simple: blue's neutral, brown's live, and the earth (if it has one), will be yellow and green stripes. Use a screwdriver. Take your time. Oh, and er, make sure your hands are dry. Here endeth the lesson. Adam Leigh

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