Monday, June 16, 2014

Lovey-Dovey and Modern

I was asked to write about a few of my favorite Romantic movies and give a little insight as to why I like them... This was really tough... but here it goes... (Aunt Laura... this one's for you!)

Romance is a tricky subject and encompasses such a massive amount of material. A strong case could be made that all the best stories are driven by some sort of love, even if it isn't a traditional romance. Some of the most masculine movies have a cupid arch hidden in there somewhere. But when a movie is labeled as Romantic, what exactly does it have to entail to fit the bill? Is it character/actor chemistry? A comedic approach where love is found through laughter? Or is it born of tragedy, star crossed lovers torn apart by the reality of a hopeless situation?

Like most girls, I have a go-to romance movie stack. The ones I watch over and over again. They may not be the best films ever made, Oscar worthy or life-changing, but for me, they define what it means to be Romantic. These films are not considered "Classic" so hang in there with me...

Penelope (2006)

This movie is one of those overlooked gems that I absolutely love. It's the story about an aristocratic heiress who suffers from a family curse: Penelope is born with the nose and tail of a pig. The curse will only be lifted when "one of her own kind" loves her. If you ask me, her real curse is being born to parents ruled by vanity. Her mom, fearing public ridicule, locks Penelope in their home and has potential suitors sign gag orders before they are allowed to see her.

Finally, hope comes in the guise of a washed up ex musician with shaggy hair and an adorable smile. Penelope and him strike up a friendship through a one way mirror. Penelope is scared he'll run away like all the others if she shows him her face. I won't ruin the ending because this film is truly one worth discovering for yourself, but it's safe to say that things escalate from there.

I love movies with this kind of fairy tale vibe. The whole film drips with whimsicality and color, just like it was pulled from the pages of a children's book. The story might sound simple, but there is a sweetness to it that holds your heart until the very end. This is such a great movie for young girls too... it's about learning to fall in love with yourself as much as it is about falling in love with someone else.

Jessica Wilhern: Penelope, just one man, one man.
Penelope: And he'll run too! They always run. Why can't you accept that? For seven years I've been watching them run. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? Do you?

Amelie (2001)

This movie takes a little dedication. First of all, it's French, so subtitle reading is required... a consideration since I normally crochet while I watch movies. Second, the uniqueness of this story is hard to grasp in the beginning. Amelie is the kind of character that I love. She sees the world completely different than anyone else and the  movie captures her point of view so perfectly. She lived a suppressed childhood with a detached father before moving to Paris as a young woman. Once in Montmatre, she discovers a love for helping others. Amelie begins to go out of her way to improve the lives of everyone around her, but begins to lose her own heart in the process. One day she discovers a treasure, a book of torn up photo booth pictures. She begins a search for the owner of the photo album and on the way, finds her own heart.

Every now and then, I stumble upon a character I can identify with and Amelie instantly captured me. Ultimately, Amelie is a lonely girl who doesn't always know how to interact with the world. She compensates by making sure everyone else is happy. As women, I think this tactic comes naturally. We are always trying to nurture the people around us and "fix" what we consider is broken, but when it comes to our own lives, we put everything on the back burner. Amelie is such a beautiful example of that.

The romance between her and Nino is a slow burn. Nino doesn't even really meet her until the end of the movie. Instead, it's about Amelie opening herself up to her own heart and allowing herself the risk of falling in love. The ending is one of the most satisfying sequences of any movie I've ever seen. They build up Amelie and Nino's face to face interaction with just the right amount of doubt and hope... it's heart wrenching and wonderful all at the same time.

Raymond Dufayel aka Glass Man: So, my little Amélie, you don't have bones of glass. You can take life's knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go get him, for Pete's sake!

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I always resent it a little when I have to defend this movie, or defend Jane Austen in general. I LOVE anything Austen related, and while Persuasion is my favorite book, this 2005 adaptation of P&P is my favorite Austen movie. Is it as good as the BBC Miniseries with a dripping wet Colin Firth emerging from a lake? ... Probably not...But, I also don't want to have to dedicate an entire afternoon of my life every time I want a Mr. Darcy fix.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is probably one of the most unlikable, snobby, prideful men to have ever been created... and generations after Austen first introduced him to the world, most girls (me included) consider him one of the most romantic characters in existence. He is riddled with faults, makes huge errors in judgement and has no idea how to propose to a woman, but that's exactly what makes him so perfect for Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzy is stubborn, idealistic, fiercely opinionated and has her own mountain of pride to contend with. The two of them were not made for sweet easy courtship. I don't think they could have fallen in love without fighting with each other first. This story isn't just about two people falling in love, but instead it's about two people learning what it means to love in equal measure. These two characters had to find mutual respect before they could ever admit to deeper feelings.

The best kind of love stories are the ones where each person accepts the other one for exactly who they are. Not for who they hope the will become, or for deeds past or present, but for all the ugly mistakes too. Darcy loved Elizabeth even after she rejected him. Darcy was able to look past all of Lizzy's shortcomings and still want to spend the rest of his life with her. (However, I wouldn't recommend listing out those shortcomings during a wedding proposal...)

For me, this movie captured the tone of Pride and Prejudice by allowing the story to retain it's humanity. It allowed Darcy and Elizabeth to breathe on screen and gave their romance the chance to grow steadily. I'm a Captain Wentworth girl, personally, but Mr. Darcy is one of those endearing romantic figures that won't ever fade.

Mr. Darcy: You must know... surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I'd scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I made the ultimate mistake of putting on this movie for inspiration when I began to write this post... Needless to say, within ten minutes, my computer was cast aside and I was laying on the steps of the Rose listening to some of the most beautiful lines ever written.  William Shakespeare is the last word in romance as far as I'm concerned and this movie not only pays homage to the wonder of his works but breathes life into the heart of the theater.

Shakespeare in Love is a spin on the life of William Shakespeare. It tells the fictional story of how he came to write Romeo and Juliet during a passionate affair with Viola De Lessups, a young aristocrat with a heart for the theater. The two fall hopelessly in love all the while knowing that it's a romance that can never endure. Theirs is a "stolen season". Viola is promised to a broke but titled Colin Firth and is scheduled to sail to the new world and Shakespeare is already married with a wife back in the country.

Viola De Lesseps: All the men at court are without poetry. If they see me, they see my father's fortune, I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all... Not the artful postures of love, but love that overthrows life. Unbiddable, ungovernable, like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love as there has never been in a play. I will have love.

What makes this movie so romantic for me is Shakespeare's language presented against the backdrop of a passionate romance. Hearing Viola and Will speaking the lines of Romeo and Juliet while falling in love with each other is enough to make any girl swoon. It reveals the depth of just how beautiful Shakespeare's words really were regardless of gender. Oftentimes, Will would be reading as Juliet since Viola (dressed as a man) was playing Romeo in the play. After finding out that Viola is beyond his reach, Shakespeare proclaims that he is "Unmanned, unmended and unmade". I mean, come on, how amazing is that line?!

This film also captures the true heart of a thespian. The theater folk surrounding Will and Viola are passionate about the stage even if they have a funny way of showing it, the fiercest being Ned Alleyn (a stupendous Ben Affleck). My first love was found on the steps of a playhouse, and the electricity and romance of the stage is portrayed perfectly here. I love showing this movie to people who either aren't Shakespeare fans or who are intimidated by Shakespeare's verse because it brings his words and his world into new focus.

This movie speaks to my heart on so many different levels. Even the tragedy of the couple is laced with a definite amount of hope. The theater, the passion, the words... every last minute of this film is beautiful and the epitome of Romantic.

William Shakespeare: My story starts at sea, a perilous voyage to an unknown land. A shipwreck. The wild waters roar and heave. The brave vessel is dashed all to pieces. And all the helpless souls within her drowned. All save one. A lady. Whose soul is greater than the ocean, and her spirit stronger than the sea's embrace. Not for her a watery end, but a new life beginning on a stranger shore. It will be a love story. For she will be my heroine for all time. And her name will be Viola.

So there you have it Aunt Laura... a few of my favorite romantic movies... and none of them "classic"

1 comment:

  1. Awe....good job. Such insight; as you know I love romance. For me it is a matter of the heart as you said, loving someone as they are not as they want them to be. Loving someone more than you love yourself....loving someone through the good, the bad, the exciting and the boring. Your list of movies were perfect. I love P&P and Shakespeare in Love, I have not seen the others but I will see them soon. Some of my favorites are Chocolate, 50 First Dates, The Notebook and Officer and a Gentleman...I could actually list a dozen more. I love your have such lovely way of presenting the movies without giving away the story....and no classics.....oh my!