Over the weekend, I skimmed something like 150 lists about movies and Valentine’s Day. Being single on the Hallmark holiday, I figured it would be a nice pick-me-up. The Onion’s A.V. Club had a great list about romance flicks “minus the schmaltz.” TotalFilm compiled a list of the “20 Worst Screen Couples.” FamilyEducation.com made a list of movies for the lovelorn. There were literally tons of other bullet points pertaining to love and cinema.
How are there are so many lists? Maybe it’s a humbling notion: There are tons of lonely geeks writing lists to make us feel better. But no matter how lonely you may be, there’s always a box of chocolates to buy and eat while watching that old DVD of “High Fidelity.” It’s OK to be single, you know?
Maybe it has been one too many Martin Scorsese flicks or books about the “cinema of isolation,” but I’ve been wondering lately whether or not modern love movies have been ruining my ability to take romance seriously. Besides, the original idea for this column was to ask out a series of actresses (Golden Girls included).
But it drives me crazy. When you’re alone and looking at hackneyed films each February, you begin to ponder these things. I don’t mean to play myself up as some huge romantic, but I’ve been thinking about “love” lately. A lot. What the hell does it mean?
Nothing will ever pass up a good “Romeo & Juliet” or “Pride & Prejudice.” There are good romantic films that can still touch hearts. “It Happened One Night” and “In the Bedroom” are landmarks that seem to get it, without the scoffs and snickers that often come with the genre. It’s the surplus of sappy, trivial romps that pain the heart. And they all follow the same unwritten formula. There’s a reason critics are regarded as cynics — they see this junk a lot and it starts to hurt.
It’s like when you see an elected official dancing to the Pointer Sisters while everyone else happily finds their soulmate by the conclusion. You can’t help but scream: “Love Actually” is bullshit! It’s always a kiss before the end credits. The relationship is always gonna last even after the film’s over. Or the movie ends with the question of what the leads’ peers will think of the relationship, but who cares?
In these movies, the female leads work in fashion or big business while the men are single fathers. The perfect guy’s right in front of the lead actress’s face, even though she doesn’t know it. The schlub gets the girl, and the protagonist wanders alone in montage for the first act. There’s a sprint to true love in the last act. I’m sorry for grocery-listing this, but maybe that’s why there were so many of those lists online. It’s a problem when themes and stories become clichés and predictabilities.
Granted, I’m still young. You can brush this off as puerile whining that should only go in a Twitter account, but it’s been getting to me. Now, I’m not saying “The Break-Up” was an acute depiction of relationship troubles. It was miserable. And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with sweet, predictable old love. I’m just saying that I don’t get it yet. I’m 22, and I already feel jaded.
I don’t know. I guess if there’s one universal truth of love to be learned from movies without needing to really experiencing it — and it still applies today — it would be this gem from “Taxi Driver”: No good can come from taking someone to a porn theater. This I can be certain of.
Still, I do hope everyone had a good holiday. And hopefully somewhere, somebody watched “The Age of Innocence” while I did.