by Amy Galea
This post contains spoilers. However all of the films mentioned are more than two years old, so we decided that they’re all past the ‘spoiler statute of limitations’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love films where love conquers all. Where, usually towards the end, she realises she’s too flighty or high- strung and he stops being either a drop kick or a womaniser (the two roles for men in Rom Coms). I love those great finale speeches: the “I hate it when you—” declarations that everyone knows actually means, “I love you, I’ve gotten over myself, we can be together now. ” And I particularly enjoy a good running scene where one character needs to tell the other how they feel, this usually happens at a wedding ceremony, or in the rain, or at a wedding ceremony in the rain.
However, sometimes you need to take a breath, ‘take a break’ and look for something a little less aspiring, but a little more comforting.
Because the dating world is tough. What’s more, even when you do end up with the person you like, they (most likely) didn’t race to you on a dark and stormy night to tell you how they feel. And your expectations that had previously been swirling around in the fairy floss machine that is Romance on Film dissipate into the faint taste of stale sugar.
To prevent further expectations being dashed into oblivion, here is a tribute to a few great films that don’t end with the grand finale of a Nancy Meyer film. Some of them end up apart and happy, some of them just end up apart. And that is o- kay.
The Way We Were
This is the kind of film that you find yourself watching on a Friday night when both your housemates are out on dates and you are suffering from feverish flu- like symptoms.
The film tells the story of an unlikely couple, Katie Morosky (Barbara Streisand) a Marxist Jew with loud anti- war opinions, and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford), a good looking (ahem, very good looking) wealthy WASP with a more sedate- let’s not rock the boat- kind of attitude. The two first meet in college, told in flashback, but the film mostly follows their second meeting at the end of the second world war. As well as acknowledging the incredible before and after situation of Streisand’s locks (and she probably didn’t even use a GHD, go figure), the film shows the fight to stay together despite different political perspectives (and hella- different personalities) set against the backdrop of post- war America (with the Hollywood blacklisting in tow). The costume design is perfect- with Barb sporting smooth hair, red lips and collared dresses throughout their second meeting- and Bobby Redford looking delish in his navy uniform.
What I appreciate about this film, is the unrelenting nature of Katie’s character- if there is even the hint of something she doesn’t agree with she will sniff it out. She is “bossy” and loud and opinionated- which perhaps might be saying something about your options for love if you are female and display these characteristics. But what I think makes it a total win- is that you still find her loveable, right up until the end. She makes you want to rip your hair out, and hug her through your television set, all at the same time.
And have I mentioned that Redford is good looking? When I exclaimed my approval to my Mum a few days after I watched this film she gave me a knowing smile, as if I’d stumbled upon a truth well beyond my years.
Here is the trailer.
(500) Days of Summer
Even though we are told up front that this is not a love story, the first time I watched this film, I could not move on from the cruelty of Summer (Zooey Deschanel, back when she actually was the New Girl with big eyes). You’ve heard the story before: she just wants something casual, more than a hookup, less than a relationship. He (Tom also known as JGL also known as be still my heart) is a hopeless romantic who believes their common love for The Smiths equates to something eternal. From there you have 500 days of a relationship, or, a non- linear screenplay narrative (take your pick).
But upon my second viewing, it occurred to me that, despite how frustratingly flighty I found Summer to be (a regular Manic Pixie Dream Girl) (sorry not sorry), she clearly told him what she wanted almost the entire way through the film. The only time she misled him was in the most perfect, “Expectations vs Reality” scene, where, okay yes, she does hide some major league information from him.
The point is, she was clear about what she had wanted from the very beginning, and if Tom had been, there would probably have been a great deal fewer days of Summer that year.
Director Marc Webb has confirmed that this is no Rom Com:
We arrive at a different conclusion, for one thing. Plus, most romantic comedies are more loyal to a formula than to emotional truth… I wanted to make an unsentimental movie and an uncynical movie. In my mind, I wanted it to be something you could dance to. That’s why we put a parenthesis in the title – it’s like a pop song in movie form. It’s not a big film. It’s not about war or poverty. It’s about 500 days in a young guy’s relationship, but it’s no less deserving of scrutiny. When your heart is first broken, it consumes you. And it’s an emotion I wanted to make a movie about, before I forgot how it felt.”
Here is the trailer.
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play a pair of best friends, who also happen to be married, and also happen to be getting divorced. This is unveiled in the first scene (or the first ten seconds of the trailer). The reason this film stands out is because it doesn’t brighten up the painful picture of breaking up, and I wouldn’t even say that it’s talking solely about marriage. What it shows is the relationship between two people who were intertwined in their history, their friends and in their jokes about lip balm. It shows the grief of their separation- felt by both of them at different times and in different ways.
I don’t want to say much more, because everything about this film is just perfect- including supporting performances by Ari Graynor, Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood and Chris Messina. I am also a big fan of Rashida’s wardrobe throughout the film- pre breakdown of course. The lady has style. This film is a must see if you are pre- breakup, post- breakup, or just in the mood to feel a lot of feelings.
The opening sequence is cute as a button.
And the trailer.
My Bestfriend’s Wedding
Oh Julia, my Julia. Dermot, my Dermot. If only they had realised earlier that men and women can never be friends (just kidding). If you can’t tell from the title, this film is about a pair of besties, who are trucking along until one of them (Dermot) falls in love with a young and bubbly Cameron Diaz and the old adage of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” hits Julia square between the eyes. With the help of her sidekick, Rupert Everett, she starts out on a grand and bumbling mission to stop the nuptials.
Forever, and ever, you’ll stay in my heart is a scene that takes me back to watching films from the corner of my childhood lounge room, behind the lounge my parents would be sitting on, long past my bed time. It was from this corner that I discovered the power of Deniro’s performance in Taxi Driver, where I found solace in Pacino’s ‘courtroom’ scene in Scent of a Woman and where I discovered via Julia that it was okay, great even, to have wild, manic hair (and personality to boot).
What My Best Friend’s Wedding achieves is illustrated in the way that you warm to Cameron, and Julia is left looking like the mad one who maybe (like the rest of us) is just insecure and unsure of what she wants. We feel her pain- we all know the fear of realising “the one that got away” when it’s too late. Yet we are forced to consider if we even want her to succeed.
Here is the brilliant 90’s trailer.
What happens when the Nazis take over Europe and people get stuck in a little Moroccan city called Casablanca? A love triangle of course! Cue Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Burgmen in one of the most famous love stories of all time- every second line is a quote you could reference during your next movie trivia night. I first became interested in watching this film because good ol’ Nora wrote it into one of my favourite scenes in When Harry Met Sally. It took me 25 years to see this film, and then I went on to watch it two nights in a row. The performances are captivating, the dialogue is so ‘on point’, and the costume design makes you want to go back in time (sans war, obviously).
Even though this film is the one movie buffs go to when discussing films without happy endings- during multiple viewings there is still a part of you that wants, that believes they will end up together. And maybe they did? Maybe they did.
I am now constantly on the lookout for situations where it would be deemed appropriate to say these three Casablanca-isms:
Round up the usual suspects
Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.
We’ll always have Paris.
What a dream.
Oh, and here’s the trailer.
If you’re interested here are three more solid films to look at:
Amy worked in copywriting and company branding until she saw the light and began teaching high school students the joys of grammar and essay writing. She currently resides on the South Coast of NSW and enjoys running away from home on a semi regular basis. She believes story telling and caramel popcorn continually make the world a grander place. In days gone by she blogged for literatico and she loves all the pretty things on Instagram.