Valentine’s Day is approaching rapidly. Whether or not you have a loved one on whom to spend inexcusable amounts of money in the form of vapid presents, you can always celebrate Hollywood’s genius in knowing that love, sex and comedy sell big time. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are some romantic comedy rental suggestions to make your holiday more complete (if the wine hasn’t done you in yet).
Pretty Woman (1990)
Boy meets prostitute. Boy pays prostitute loads of cash to have her exclusive services. Boy falls in love with prostitute, grows a conscience and punches his rich L.A. George Costanza friend right in the face. He saves said prostitute from her inevitable street corner life with the remainder of his cash, and sweeps her off her feet (she is not wearing glass slippers because her fairy godmother is another prostitute with no money or future).
To be fair, Pretty Woman is a really fun, light film, when you get passed the irony. The Rodeo Drive scene and the “You work on commission?” line are both cool enough to make me sit through two hours of that unfortunate hair.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Arguably the only good movie Meg Ryan has ever starred in (Top Gun doesn’t count). The chemistry between her and Billy Crystal is unmistakable, the comic timing absolutely perfect and the story line believable, which is a rare commodity in romcoms. We don’t even care that we already know they’re going to end up together. We just want to find out how.
I love this movie because it actually rings true, the actors are great and I applaud that such a strong, balanced, witty and funny script was written by a woman (Nora Ephron). Also, watching Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby battle over furniture lets us hope that we lonely hearts may one day too experience marital bliss.
He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
The 21st century version of romance. Divorce is your husband lying about smoking, marriage is your father getting a heart attack, dating is waiting to see if he accepted your friend request and rejection is called Gigi Phillips (Ginnifer Goodwin). Add a little self-loathing, some Bradley Cooper and an oddly happy ending and you have a romantic comedy!
Everyone has already seen this film, but I still believe it’s well worth the rental. It’s sharp, well-paced and with just enough plot twists to make you believe in true love, unless you’re bitter about leaving Scarlett Johansson in your office closet and ending up alone.
The Mexican (2001)
Perhaps it seems like an odd choice, but I simply love The Mexican. Brad Pitt pulls off that clumsy, inept, down on his luck guy with such ease that we forget who he is in real life (a feat Tom Cruise has never quite mastered). While I have conflicting feelings about Julia Roberts, she is actually great at playing the neurotic, self-absorbed, self-helping bride-to-be with an excess of feelings.
Admittedly, it’s the action and the plot twists which tie in the whole movie as opposed to the riveting love story (even though love is the driving motive behind all the action). Nevertheless, The Mexican is worth watching because it’s entertaining, fun and who doesn’t like a great Mexican stand-off plus James Gandolfini’s voice? Besides, we all know that loves conquers all, even the mob and faulty antique guns.
As Good As It Gets (1997)
Let me put aside my slanderous Valentine’s Day banter for a moment. This movie is one of the most unlikely, genuine and odd love stories I have ever had the pleasure to watch. Both Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt offer riveting portrayals of the reclusive jerk and the single mother, letting a weird, slightly faltering yet heart-warming bond grow between the two. They have enough compelling chemistry to make us believe it, even if we shudder a little bit when they actually kiss (it’s still kind of weird).
However, I enjoyed it for that specific reason because Hollywood always romanticizes love stories. Somehow, this one fell through the crack: it’s not perfect and it probably does not end well after the credits roll, but it’s good enough for us to believe it while it happens.
I chose these films not necessarily for their excess of cheese but rather because they are compelling in their own way, funny and entertaining if admittedly less cerebral than, say, something like Life Is Beautiful or The Way We Were.
Just grab some popcorn and either cry with delight or shake your head with scorn… it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without it!