Confession: I'm a sucker for romantic movies. What could be more endearing than watching two adorable people try to resist falling in love? Of course there must be obstacles to overcome; otherwise you don't have a story. I think most of us enjoy the idea of love being an inevitability... even if finding the match is like finding the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack, destiny will not be denied! Except in The Bridges of Madison County, of course. Generally speaking though, romantic films promote the idea that there is someone for everyone, and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. However, there are a lot of messages to be found in even some of my very favorite movies that are much, much less appealing:
1. When Harry Met Sally: I start here because this is one of my favorite films of all time. Even though it endorses one of the greatest untruths ever told... men and women can't be friends. Harry and Sally debate this point early on and Sally tries to take the day with this: "So you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?" Harry's response? "No, you pretty much want to nail 'em too." Now, I'm not a man, and I have no idea what percentage of women the typical guy wants to "nail" (UGH) but I have many wonderful platonic friendships with men that I wouldn't trade for anything. As a matter of fact, because it is considered an offense against societal mores to be "nailing" more than one person at a time, MOST of my relationships with men have been platonic and I'm assuming that is true for most people. Unless you are all "nailing" each other behind my back. LMK, 'k?
2. Sleepless in Seattle: I might as well get all of my Nora Ephron bashing out of the way up front. This film bothers me SO MUCH that I have devoted an entire blog to it; however, my BFF has informed me that it is actually giving women permission to break up with the boring-nice-guy (even if he looks like BILL PULLMAN) to look for their soul mate. Who, in Annie's case, turns out to be another boring-nice-guy. With a kid. Who lives on the other side of the country. You go girl!!! It was definitely a good idea to dump your handsome, successful, sweet, local fiancé for a voice on the radio!!! Boo.
3. While You Were Sleeping: Another Bill Pullman film with "sleep" in the title, only THIS time he gets the girl. From his BROTHER, played by Peter Gallagher, who has never been more hilarious than he is here. Before you get all grossed out (save that for the next film on the list), the REAL problem in this ridiculous and convoluted plot (I watch it every Christmas! Woot-woot!) is the idea that dishonesty is somehow "polite." There is a wonderful theme here screaming to be heard: that our fantasies are just that, a FANTASY. And reality can be so much better because the connections we make go so much deeper than appearances. Instead we are treated to a ludicrous set of circumstances by which our heroine is kept apart from her #onetruelove because she must "politely" maintain the lie that she is engaged to another. It's dumb and wrong. And I watch it every Christmas.
4. Dan in Real Life: In this case Dan, played by the utterly impossible to resist Steve Carrell, does in fact steal his BROTHER'S girlfriend. Two brothers sleeping with the same woman in the same movie is a little too biblical for me, sorry. ICK.
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love: Again, I GET IT. There is no way any woman on the planet could NOT fall for Steve Carrell, even when he is acting like a total D-BAG. As he is here. This movie has a very confusing message about "revenge" as a valid romantic position. The way I remember it, Steve Carrell's wife, who he still loves very much, has an affair with a d-bag and this makes him sad. So he embarks on a mission to learn how to be a d-bag himself by using women and tossing them aside in order to... win her back? Humiliate his children (one of the women is his kid's teacher)? Destroy his legacy as a good man? It was all very upsetting and perplexing but never mind that, IT WORKED! So he and his wife lived happily ever after. Say it with me this time: ICK.
6. Love, Actually: Actually, LOVE this film, even though it is pretty much rotten to the core. Damn Brits! They make everything seem so charming! Declaring your love for your best friend's spouse! Buying your tarty secretary a nicer Christmas gift than your wife! Porn as a path to true love! IT'S ALL SO ROMANTIC! When it's done with a British accent, I can't deny it.
7. Celeste and Jesse Forever* Turns out, Jesse is an aimless underachiever because of his WIFE. It's Celeste's fault, really. The RIGHT woman gets him on track and after years of being a wastrel, he becomes a responsible, hard-working success story. Damn you Celeste! Don't you understand that your over-achieving was emasculating? So gross.
8. Pretty Woman: Please don't make me say it. Pretty please. Speaking of which...
9. Pretty in Pink: Does anyone like Blane? Isn't he a boring snob with no backbone? But we love Duckie, right? Ladies...come on, choose wisely.
10. Peggy Sue Got Married: I KNOW! I love it too. And at its heart is the beautiful truth that most mothers would remarry their husband, even if he turned out to be a feckless, cheating goom-bah because they could not imagine life without their particular children. But Peggy Sue had OPTIONS. And her husband did turn out to be a feckless, cheating goom-bah. Ladies... come on, choose wisely.
*Upon reflection, turns out Celeste and Jesse Forever is the last romantic comedy I can remember seeing. That came out in 2012. Apparently it annoyed me enough to unconsciously boycott rom-coms for four years! Or maybe I'm afraid that nowadays I'm just going to be watching two hours of young people staring at their phones and "swiping right"??? LMK, 'k?