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Happy Endings in Hollywood CinemaCliché, Convention and the Final Couple$
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James MacDowell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748680177

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680177.001.0001

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Happy endings and unrealism

Happy endings and unrealism

(p.98) Chapter 3 Happy endings and unrealism
Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema

James MacDowell

Edinburgh University Press

The assumption that the Hollywood ‘happy ending’ is inherently ‘unrealistic’ is extremely prevalent. Chapter 3 examines the association of happy endings with ‘unrealism’ in two main ways. Firstly, it treats ‘unrealism’ as an effect of an artistic convention's excessive familiarity, and considers the traditionally close conceptual relationship between the final couple happy ending and fictional narrative in general, suggesting that this persistent association has often motivated films (such as Pretty Woman [1990]) to cast doubt upon the authenticity of their own happy endings. Secondly, partly via a discussion of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), the chapter asks whether there is something innately ‘unrealistic’ in the convention of the romantic happy ending itself, probing the issue of the relationship between the disordered, ‘open’ nature of life and the necessarily finite and ‘closed’ nature of narrative – particularly as this matter informs the basic tension between ending and beginning that lies at the heart of the final couple.

Keywords:   Hollywood cinema, happy ending, endings, closure, unrealism, realism, romance, romantic comedy

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