One of the best things to do is get together with your girlfriend or boyfriend and watch a movie. DVDs are just so commonplace and as you know you can get those pirate copies even while movies are in cinemas. I personally prefer watching them at the cinema the first time around. As Valentine’s Day is approaching I recommend some of my favourite romantic movies from the last two years…
With generous amounts of good luck and good timing, 50 First Dates set an all-time box-office record for the opening weekend of a romantic comedy; whether it deserved such a bonanza is another issue altogether. It’s a sweet-natured vehicle for sweet-natured stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and their track record with The Wedding Singer no doubt factors in its lowbrow appeal. But while the well-matched lovebirds wrestle with a gimmicky plot (she has no short-term memory, so he has to treat every encounter as their first), director Peter Segal (who directed Sandler in Anger Management) ignores the intriguing potential of their predicament (think Memento meets Groundhog Day) and peppers the proceedings with the kind of juvenile humor that Sandler fans have come to expect. The movie sneaks in a few heartfelt moments amidst its inviting Hawaiian locations, and that trained walrus is charmingly impressive, but you can’t quite shake the feeling that too many good opportunities were squandered in favor of easy laughs. Like Barrymore’s character, you might find yourself forgetting this movie shortly after you’ve seen it.
2. The Notebook (2004)
When you consider that old-fashioned tearjerkers are an endangered species in Hollywood, a movie like The Notebook can be embraced without apology. Yes, it’s syrupy sweet and clogged with clichés, and one can only marvel at the irony of Nick Cassavetes directing a weeper that his late father John–whose own films were devoid of saccharine sentiment–would have sneered at. Still, this touchingly impassioned and great-looking adaptation of the popular Nicholas Sparks novel has much to recommend, including appealing young costars (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) and appealing old costars (James Garner and Gena Rowlands, the director’s mother) playing the same loving couple in (respectively) early 1940s and present-day North Carolina. He was poor, she was rich, and you can guess the rest; decades later, he’s unabashedly devoted, and she’s drifting into the memory-loss of senile dementia. How their love endured is the story preserved in the titular notebook that he reads to her in their twilight years. The movie’s open to ridicule, but as a delicate tearjerker it works just fine. Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember were also based on Sparks novels, suggesting a triple-feature that hopeless romantics will cherish.
The exotic sounds, vibrant colors, and ecstatic dancing of Bollywood collide with the cunning storytelling of Jane Austen in Bride & Prejudice (from the writer/director of previous East/West hybrid Bend It Like Beckham). When smart, outspoken Lalita Bakshi (Indian beauty Aishwarya Rai) meets Will Darcy (Martin Henderson, The Ring), she finds this American businessman arrogant and conceited–but because his best friend is falling in love with her sister, Lalita agrees to travel around India with Darcy. On the trip, a childhood friend of Darcy’s named Johnny (Daniel Gillies, Spider-Man 2) both tickles Lalita’s fancy and confirms her worst suspicions about Darcy. But as events unfold, Lalita wonders if she hasn’t misjudged Darcy–and Johnny. Austen fans will be find much to criticize; Bride & Prejudice transplants the basic plot of Pride & Prejudice to modern India, but not much of Austen’s sly wit or her insights about character and society have survived the translation. Henderson, though handsome, lacks the intimidating charisma of previous Mr. Darcys (including Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth). Thank goodness for the delightful Rai, here making her first all-English-language movie. She commands the screen like a true star (unsurprisingly, she’s hugely popular in India, and previously starred in a more homegrown Austen adaptation: I Have Found It, based on Sense & Sensibility). For Western audiences unfamiliar with the freewheeling exuberance of Indian movies–wild musical numbers can break out at almost any moment–Bride & Prejudice offers an engaging taste of this fantastic cinematic style.
Anyone familiar with writer/director James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets) knows the man has a real feel for interesting women and a disarming way with a one-liner. The main women in Spanglish are Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni), a moneyed SoCal mom, and non-English speaking Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), the beautiful Latina whom Deborah hires as a housekeeper. The one-liners, some of them amusing, are everywhere. Brooks provides an intriguing set-up for the two women to butt heads–Deborah’s pudgy daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele) needs the affection at which Flor excels, while Flor’s clever, bi-lingual daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) is enamored of the financial advantages Deborah can provide–then proceeds to make Deborah so hatefully ignorant you can’t imagine why her neuroses are the main thrust of the film. And Deborah’s celebrated chef husband John (Adam Sandler, way over his head) is such a perfect parent he doesn’t seem human–what happened to the Brooks who had Terms of Endearment mom Debra Winger turn to her scowling little boy and grunt “Don’t make me hit you in the street”? Cloris Leachman has a nifty supporting role as Deborah’s boozy, ex-jazz singer mother, but it’s only one offbeat chord in an earnest film that hits all the wrong notes.