I don’t count myself among the cynics. I promise you, I love a good romance. There’s something delightfully indulgent in letting yourself be swept up in a love story. I love that Tom Hanks knows that Meg Ryan’s favorite flower is the daisy in You’ve Got Mail. That he reads Pride and Prejudice in order to impress her. I get a little choked up when Joel Barish simply tells Clementine “Okay,” after she lists the reasons why their relationship won’t work. My heart flips when Harold Crick presents a bouquet of flours to his baker sweetheart Ana. But those love stories are not the ones that usually get attention. Those aren’t “classic” romantic plots. Maybe there’s something broken and warped in my soul, but these more famous interactions never got to me. So since February is upon us and it is Valentine’s Day, let’s take a moment to reassess these iconic “romantic gestures” for what they really are.
Love Actually: I actually have a lot of affection for this sappy and divisive British romance. But this particular plot line? Buddy, your best friend is right upstairs and this? This is his wife. I know many think this little cue card display is the sweetest thing. That he’s not asking anything of her, just closure. Me? I think it’s selfish. You have a crush on your best friend’s girl? Listen to The Cars. Write in your journal about it. Do not, I repeat, do not collage about it.
Overboard: The ending to this ’80s classic movie is pure romantic indulgence. Two attractive actors (who are in love in real life!), fling themselves off their respective sea crafts and swim towards each other, so swept away are they by their need to be together. But let’s take a step back and remember that while Goldie Hawn’s pampered princess character had amnesia, Kurt Russell, in some sort of ’80s homage to Taming Of The Shrew, duped her into thinking she was married to him. He revenge duped a brain damaged woman.
Titanic: Alright, alright, the whole movie is a ridiculous spectacle. To apply logic would be folly. But, just for laughs, let’s remember that Jack had gotten Rose to safety. That she was on a lifeboat. And she jumped back on the sinking ship to what? TO WHAT? To drag him down, that’s what. And don’t even get me started on what happens once they get in the water. You know what’s romantic, Rose? Rolling your shapely bum over a bit so your heroic lover can share that raft/door/ornamental headboard with you. Oh did it capsize on your first try? TRY AGAIN. No dice? Then maybe you should consider taking turns in the freezing water. I’m just saying, surviving is more romantic than dying, no matter what Shakespeare wrote.
Grease: Correct me if I’m wrong here: the take home message of Grease is “change everything about yourself and shimmy into some Lycra and you, too, might get your man!” Without a doubt, Olivia Newton-John looks lovely in Lycra. I got chills, etc. But the gesture here? It’s pretty ugly.
Beauty And The Beast: Any bookish young lady who grew up with this Disney tale probably swooned a little when The Beast presented Belle with a library. Rolling ladders! Plush armchairs! But all the leather bound classics in the world can’t hide the fact that the reason he gives her a library is to make the fact of her imprisonment more palatable. Yes yes, he nearly let your father rot and die in a dank cell, but, ooooo, the complete works of Proust!
Say Anything: When this particular love scene pops up on “Most Romantic Movie Moments” lists, and it always does, the author inevitably includes the written equivalent of a nervous laugh. Usually it goes something like this, “My god, this is SO romantic. I mean, ha, it would be SUPER creepy, if it weren’t, like, SO ROMANTIC.” Yeah, no, folks: it’s super creepy. I love Lloyd Dobler. If I were Diane Court I would count myself awfully lucky to snare him. But if you break up with someone and they end up outside your window…at night…playing the song you lost your virginity to? I’m sorry, that’s just one shimmy up the drainpipe away from Edward Cullen mouth breathing in the corner while you sleep. Once again, I love Lloyd Dobler, I’m awfully glad he got the girl, but this business is over the line.