Okay, so it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re thinking about watching a film. You know that anything with Meg Ryan is going to make you ill, and you’re aware that Pretty Woman is probably the worst film ever made for women. What are you to do? Here are some films that approach romance a bit differently. There are others, these are just the ones that came to my mind.
Warren Beatty’s masterpiece is an almost 4 hour long retelling of the romance between Jack Reed (Warren Beatty) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). Journalists by trade and leftists by heart, Reed and Bryant do their best to navigate the complexities of romance and revolution as they wind their way from Greenwich Village to the Russian Revolution. Jack Nicholson puts in a turn as Eugene O’Neill, and Maureen Stapleton is fantastic as Emma Goldman. If you want a romance that captures the desire to connect with someone who shares your values, but won’t limit your revolutionary potential, Reds is about as good as it gets.
True Romance (1993)
If you like Tarrantino films but want something more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than a Heroin overdose, the Tarrantino-penned True Romance is for you. Christian Slater does what he does best, playing Clarence Worley, a romantic loner who falls head over heels for Alabama (Patricia Arquette) a prostitute who feels the same way about him. The fun begins when Worley accidentally steals a ton of cocaine from Alabama’s pimp (Gary Oldman).
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Did your eyes light up when I mentioned a heroin overdose? Well, I suspect you’re going to be more interested in Sid and Nancy, the tragic story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and his paramour Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). [I could probably fill this entire entry with nothing but Gary Oldman films, btw] Follow Sid and Nancy’s destructive relationship and they share everything from needles to knives. I’m not sure I should give spoilers, but sadly, Johnny Rotten is still alive.
The Graduate (1967)
To call the graduate a romance is true in the loosest sense of the term. There is very little that is romantic in this story of disaffected youth. Ben (Dustin Hoffman) has recently graduated from college but lacks any sense of direction. When his mother’s friend, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) comes on to him, his life takes on an almost surreal effect. After falling in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter (Katherine Ross) it’s not clear the situation could possibly have a happy ending. This Mike Nichols masterpiece captures what it’s like to stalk a woman engaged to someone else while you’re also sleeping with her mother, not that most of us know what that’s like. And uh, if you’re the kind of person to sleep with a woman and her mother, one word: Plastics.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Okay, so to call this a romantic film is a stretch. Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical work of the same name, Terry Gilliam produces a film that manages to capture the drug infused criticisms Thompson (Johnny Depp) hurls at the American dream. I’ll call it a romance because Thompson and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) are as brilliantly codependent as any romantic pair, but with mescaline, in this sharply funny drug haze of a film. In the end the characters are as destructive as they are attractive, much like your fantasies about peace, love, and the American dream.