Hollywood drops rom-coms for 'raunchier' laughs

Hollywood’s box office drops its sweetheart romantic comedies as R-rated funnies gain momentum.

Tony Danza, Scarlett Johansson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julianne Moore attend the "Don Jon" New York premiere at SVA Theater on 12 September 2013 in New York City. Picture: AFP/Rob Kim/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES - From Some Like It Hot to Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle to The Wedding Planner, romantic comedies have long been Hollywood's box office darlings, but this year raunchy R-rated comedies are getting top billing.

Kicking off a season of coarse comedy is actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut Don Jon, out in US theatres this weekend, about a young, attractive man who struggles to connect with women due to his porn addiction.

When Jon falls for the beautiful Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, he finds his relationship expectations challenged, while Barbara has her own ideas for the kind of boyfriend Jon should be.

"I wanted to play with rom-com conventions and poke fun at them a bit," said Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote and starred in the lead role.

"(Barbara) expects her relationship with Jon to be like the romantic movies that she watches, and she tries to make him into that kind of man. They're both stuck in their expectations instead of accepting each other for who they are," he added.

Don Jon, rated R for its graphic sexual content and strong language, leads a wave of comedies taking the place of conventional romantic-comedies drawing audiences looking for warm feel-good films as the weather gets colder.

Movies such as 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant that made $281 million worldwide, and 2006's The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, which made $205 million at the global box office, demonstrated the power of romantic-comedies to bring in audiences.

But in 2013, few traditional romantic comedies follow the traditional formula of boy meets girl in unlikely circumstances, falls in love and eventually lives happily ever after, a model that made films such as 1990's Pretty Woman or 2001's _The Wedding Planner _into romantic-comedy staples.

"Rom-coms are not disappearing altogether, but there is a need for a novel approach ... where the story-telling structure is different and doesn't end with a woman and man just being happy," said Lucas Shaw, film writer at TheWrap.com.