In honor of Election Day +1… I give you something totally apolitical! This has been on the back burner for a while scribbled out in my notebook. I’m just really bad about sitting down and transcribing. Enjoy!
Ignoring for a moment the needlessly gendered language of the term “chick flick,” namely the implication that only humans with a double X chromosome can enjoy a good romance, let’s talk about the genre.
Let’s face it, they’re mostly shit. Written by the out of touch, produced and directed by the clueless, then acted by the plastic and consumed by masses hungry for reaffirmation of safe mores. This is true of most cinema regardless, but for some reason film romance always seems particularly hackneyed. I’ll be upfront, this isn’t some “best of” romance list. There are plenty of good romance movies that still just don’t do it for me (The Notebook may be objectively good, but I also objectively hate it). Rather, this is a convenient reference for those cozy movie nights when you feel like being thoughtful ‘and’ brilliant. These are movies to scratch that romantic itch (not an STD I swear) without needing to tune out or turn off. This is also a far cry from an exhaustive list. If there’s something you think should be on here, let me know! I’ll check it out. Similarly, if you didn’t like one of my movies on the list, let me know and I’ll
punch you in the sacral chakra offer a mostly sincere apology. Now, follow me if you would…
The granddaddy of them all. Don’t roll your eyes at me young man! Casablanca is probably the most famous movie you’ve never watched. It’s considered one of the great romantic movies of all time, and it deserves the praise. There’s nothing gushy or saccharine about it. If anything, it’s tragic. A love story about hardened, adult decisions. It’s also got shooting, gangsters, spies, dudes in fezzes, and best of all, Nazis. This movie was made before Pearl Harbor, and it’s pretty much about how we needed to kick Hitler’s ass at a time when that wasn’t a winning proposition. By the time it’s over, you’ll want to kick his dead ass too. This scene alone…
Besides that, it’s also got that rapid fire acerbic dialog that you only seem to find in period pictures. Humphrey Bogart and Claude Raines spar with old fashioned machismo that’s really just a treat to watch. Something else you might notice with keen observation, Casablanca is pretty much the source of every pop culture reference ever. You will hear so many lines that have been quoted over and over without ever knowing where they came from and watch so many scenes that have been parodied, homaged, or referenced in a hundred other works. There is nothing about this movie that is bad, and as a “chick flick” goes you can’t really do better.
The Decoy Bride
At its heart this is the well-worn story of the small town girl and the city boy. What’s different about this one? Well first off it’s in Scotland…
That’s a bigger sell than it sounds like at first. An American actress and her Scottish writer fiance are desperately attempting to marry away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi, escaping to the rural Isle of Hegg. When the paparazzi track them down though the bride to be goes AWOL, leading her desperate entourage to stage a fake wedding to draw off the reporters. A local girl with her own share of relationship baggage is recruited to stand in for missing bride, and things really only spiral downhill from there. The subjects of our star-crossed shenanigans are played by David Tennant (better known most from Doctor Who) and Kelly Macdonald (of recent success as the heroine of Pixar’s Brave). They have great chemistry and it’s just a lot of fun to see two cult favorites hamming it up in an indy jaunt. Really the whole cast are standouts though. Supporting performances by Alice Eve, Federico Castelluccio, and Dylan Moran really make the whole thing stand out as a joyful and uncommonly heartwarming experience. If either you or your significant have a thing for humor from across the pond (and what American doesn’t?), this is a “chick flick” for you.
This is probably the most off beat entry on this list, but it’s not just one of my favorite romantic movies, it’s one of my favorite movies period. Describing the pitch is always difficult, but here’s my best attempt. Michelle Krusiec plays Wilhemina, a young, successful Chinese-American woman constantly fending off the attempts of her widowed mother, portrayed by storied actress Joan Chen, to set her up with men. This is because she is a lesbian, still a complicated subject in the conservative community she comes from. Her efforts at dodging this minefield are complicated by a new love interest Vivian, played by Lynn Chen and who also happens to be her boss’s daughter. Still more wrinkles are introduced when Wil’s mother shows up on her doorstep, having been ostracized by the community for becoming mysteriously pregnant! Her mother refuses to talk about the baby or its father, leaving Wil to deal with her mercurial and increasingly hormonal mother while concealing her relationship with Vivian. As if it even needed to be said, hijinks ensue.
The characters are very much trapped between worlds, and the dialog alternates rapidly between English and subtitled Mandarin. I might be biased in that I can actually understand some of the Chinese being spoken, which makes it that much funnier, but everyone I’ve introduced to it has loved it so I can’t imagine the language barrier is that significant.
I don’t know if it really conforms to all the traditional definitions of a “chick flick,” but it’s definitely a great romantic comedy. It’s hilarious, sweet, and even a little insightful. Order some Asian food this Friday and curl up on the couch for this one.
The Time Traveler’s Wife
We’re going to round this out with a good tear-jerker. There will be tissues needed, so I’d suggest having them handy. Don’t give me that stoic crap. Those saline ducts work just as well as every other homo sapiens’.
The thing that really separates it from the pack is… well it’s in the title. Time travel. Eric Bana’s protagonist is unstuck in time, prone to unpredictable temporal shifts, leading to him effectively living the events of his life out of order. It’s an interesting concept to watch play out, particularly as they take care to make sure that all events pretty much line up. As the title might suggest though, this isn’t really his story. The real pathos comes from Rachel McAdams as his titular soul mate who has to ‘deal’ with his constant entrances into and exits from her life. It’s easy to empathize with their conflicts and struggles, the seemingly fantastical impetus thinly disguising cues familiar to anyone who has ever failed at a relationship. Also, it’s sad. Like, really really sad. In a way though it still comes across as strangely cathartic after the credits have rolled and you’ve written off your stock of kleenex. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, either by the drama or by the fascinating plot devices.
So concludes this our first expedition into the harrowing realm of “cinema you and your Y chromosome aren’t supposed to enjoy.” Hopefully it’s been an informative little detour. Feel free to respond in the comment section with your own suggestions and recommendations.