Monday, July 23, 2012

An Overrated Display of Affection

Once again, I am conflicted with opting for a title without punctuation. The title that was originally intended for this post was Isn't It Romantic?, however, as you can see, there is a question mark. I just can't surrender to this odd habit of mine. Anyway, perhaps you can gather what topic I'll be discussing today from each of the titles: romance. In films, of course. I am far too inexperienced to digest on such a complex subject as love. (Digest?) That being said, the following analysis of each film I'll be mentioning may be a bit subjective, as always, as well as inaccurate, considering my lack of knowledge on the subject. It's as if I consider myself an expert on all the other things I talk about, which may very well be true. Much like my previous post on films that make you cry, I will provide two films that the general public consider to be the ideal romance, and two films I consider to be the ideal romance. In this particular case, I will choose two classic romances, dated back to the Golden Age of cinema, and two modern romances. Let's begin with the overrated romances, shall we?

Casablanca - You read that right. I'm going to be blunt in stating that I did not enjoy this so-called "ultimate classic". It was not romantic in the slightest, nor was it even an entertaining picture. The story is utterly dull, completely uninteresting. A film as blown-up as this one really should capture your attention, at least. It was incredibly slow-paced, therefore feeling longer than it actually was, which is not an appealing quality for any movie. Not only is it an overrated film, but it is an awfully overrated romance. I am going to place the blame on the "dashing" leading man, Humphrey Bogart. Before analyzing this specific romance, let's take a look at Humphrey Bogart: he is very unattractive, totally emotionless (therefore not the greatest actor), practically incoherent with his constant mumbling, and, honestly, doesn't seem like a nice person. That may sound childish, but I find myself annoyed in the presence of actors who in real-life are rude and nasty. My evidence that Humphrey Bogart might have been (note my uncertainty) a rude person is an excerpt from his Oscar speech that I read in The Complete Unofficial History of the Academy Awards: "I'm not going to thank anybody. I'm just going to say that I damn well deserve it." I admire a shred of humility in any actor, but to see an actor who isn't the greatest act cocky and self-assured as he is is just repulsive. Also, I have just discovered that the American Film Institute, an organization I hold in the highest regard because it named Some Like It Hot the greatest comedy of all time, awarded Humphrey Bogart with the title of #1 Male Actor of all time. Preposterous. Moving on. The iconic romance between Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman) is so exaggerated in its intensity that it becomes nonexistent altogether. In other words, there is no overwhelming spark between the two, mostly because Humphrey Bogart is unable to conjure feelings of romance. Again, completely emotionless. He utters his romantic lines to Ingrid Bergman as if he were informing her of a family death or threatening to kill her. And his facial expressions are no different, so you cannot perceive love in his blank stare. Ingrid Bergman is nearly successful in making this romance believable, for she is a wonderful actress, though not the best of her time. Her foreign and delicate beauty is almost mesmerizing in the film, yet the film itself is so boring that all she does is stir me into a lullaby-slumber. For those who are curious in seeing this "remarkable classic" should lower their expectations, as it is absolutely unworthy of its massive acclaim. Perhaps then, with little or no hope of it being as good as the critics say, you might enjoy the film.

The Notebook - The first book-to-film adaptation of one of many Nicholas Sparks' novels, this is probably the most well-known and adored modern romance of the new generation of cinema. This won't be much of an aggressive review as with the previous film, for I did enjoy the film very much. Set in the 1940s, a time I find myself enchanted by, it follows the love between Allie Hamilton (played by the ever-adorable Rachel McAdams) and Noah Calhoun (played by a dopey Ryan Gosling). The love story here is pretty generic: rich girl falls for poor boy, which could never work because she is destined for greatness. Although this story sounds familiar, the film goes on a different angle that includes the surprising liberality of her parents. Even when her parents forbid her to see the boy, Allie dramatically refuses, stating that she loves him. Normally, the girl would protest in this situation, only to be beaten by her overbearing parents. Here, however, her mother secretly keeps them apart by throwing away all of Noah's letters, allowing her daughter to move on. And, what do you know, it worked. Shortly after their move to Charleston, away from Noah, Allie finds herself in a genuine romance with Lon Hammond Jr. (played by the charming and underused James Marsden), to her parents' delight as he is heir to an immense fortune. During this time, Noah is depressed and outraged most of the time, as he labors over fixing up a large mansion. Allow me to stop short, before I give everything away again. As I've said, the film itself was very good, something I would watch again in the future. However, the romance between Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling was not as impressive as I imagined it would be. To begin with, I don't see how they became so passionate for one another. One minute, she refuses to go out with him unless he threatens to jump from the Ferris wheel. Next moment, she pounces on him in a tender embrace, which was unheard of in the 1940s I might add. The entire beginning of the film, actually, was unnecessary and tedious. Once the Hamiltons moved to Charleston, and Allie met and fell for Lon, then the film became interesting. In fact, the love between Rachel McAdams and James Marsden was far more believable and romantic, in my opinion. Of course, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams shared that now-iconic kiss under the rain. It's the poster for the movie, after all. Of course, I am forgetting the most romantic element of the whole picture, and that is the one between Noah and Allie in their later years (played by James Garner and Gene Rowlands, respectively). The moments they shared on the screen were so poignant and heart-warming, so much so that I am now regretting listing this as an overrated romance.... Well, what's done is done.

Now, onto the real ideal romances. Short pause in the post.

Gone With The Wind - I am speechless as to how extraordinary this film is, in more ways than one. One could call this the ultimate classic, and even the ultimate film, as it has profound drama, captivating imagery, and, most of all, sincere romance. It's more than romance, it's an undying love that can exist on-screen so impressively that it increases the passion of it more so. How amazing is it that a love between two actors on-screen can be so believable and affectionate! Yes, an exclamation point, I dare say. The plot, too, is absolutely sensational from beginning to end. There is not one point in the film that I wish it would end, quite the opposite. And taking into consideration the astounding length of this film (nearly four hours), this is a true accomplishment of direction, worthy of far more esteem than it is granted. Compared to the much shorter, slow-paced "epic romance" that is supposedly Casablanca, it is baffling how undermined a true classic like Gone With The Wind is. Onto the romance, our leading actors are Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. (Even their names are more romantic than the previous classic's stars.) Unlike the unintelligible Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable provides an irresistible elegance and charm to the film, in addition to his good looks and marvelous acting. His performance as Rhett Butler was simply smashing, and it is a crime to the Academy that he was not honored for his unquestionable achievement. His leading lady is Scarlett O'Hara, played by the intoxicating beauty that is Vivien Leigh, whose first-ever role proved to be her defining performance here in Gone With The Wind. As the audacious, intelligent, and, at times, insecure Scarlett O'Hara, Vivien Leigh shines in one of the most outstanding performances of all time. Most female leads of that time were rather uncharacteristic and ordinary, so Vivien Leigh's remarkable portrayal was all the more incredible. She received the Best Actress Oscar, as she rightfully should have, in the role that only she was destined to play. Another pleasant element of the film was Hattie McDaniel as the sassy and caring maid, Mammy, who received the Best Supporting Actress award. Gone With The Wind, as famous as it may be, is underrated in the cinema stratosphere, with a disgraceful place on the American Film Institute's Best Movies List that is under lesser films such as Casablanca. It is truly shameful that such an amazing film as this be under appreciated, for it may very well be the greatest film of all time.

When Harry Met Sally... - While it may not be as passionate as The Notebook, this is my absolute most-cherished romantic-comedy of all time. (I sure do take advantage of the phrase "of all time", don't I?) I've recently rewatched this delightful film, written by the late great, Nora Ephron, and directed by the talented romantic-filmmaker, Rob Reiner. What makes this film so wonderful is how realistic and sweet it is, how conversation is the prime factor of the film, therefore making it unique. Not all romances have to be epic passions involving dire circumstances and difficulties. Maybe that's why I love this film so much, how there is hardly any intense scenes of love and focuses more on the philosophy of relationships. Relationships, not romance. The term "romance" is so romanticized, if you can believe it, that it becomes repetitive and, eventually, typical. With this quiet, comfortable picture, you can enjoy the ambiance of interesting conversation between two immensely likable characters. The leading actors, as you may know, are Billy Crystal, playing the lovably cynical Harry Burns, and Meg Ryan, playing the adorably bright-eyed Sally Albright. The chemistry between the two is present from beginning to end, which is magnified by their wonderful friendship. I notice I continue using the term "wonderful" to describe almost every element of this film, and that is simply because this film is wonderful in an array of ways. The relationship between Harry's friend Jess and Sally's friend Marie is mirrored to the eventual romance between Harry and Sally themselves, also. (Thought that was worth mentioning.) Every conversation between Harry and Sally is a little movie in itself, a series of enjoyable clips that form to create a wonderful film.

Well, there you have it. Yet another succinct post describing four romantic films, some more so than others. I'd just like to say I rather enjoy writing these sorts of posts, as it provides readers with an interesting point-of-view on films they may or may not like as much as I. Of course, my view is, and always will be, subjective. With that in mind, please know that there are many more amorous romances and touching relationships out there for moviegoers to behold and admire, or to scoff at and mock. I attempted to close with another meaningful thought, but there's really nothing more to add. Say, why don't you provide some intriguing comments on films that you consider to be romantic or overrated? I'd have no objections to some comments like that. It would be swell of you.


  1. Nice post. I wonder what's your take on anti rom-coms like (500) Days Of Summer? Other romantic films that I highly enjoy include Once, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Amelie.

    1. Well, considering my prejudice against Zooey Deschanel and her so-called "adorkable quirkiness", I didn't take much to (500) Days of Summer. I found the ending symbolic, how he met a girl named Autumn.

  2. It's really interesting to hear such a different take on Casablanca. I'm in the camp that loves it, but it isn't really because of the romance. I'm a big fan of the witty dialogue and think Bogart brings a lot to the main role. I agree with you on When Harry Met Sally, which is one of the great romantic comedies. Gone with the Wind is another story. I caught it for the first time in January, and I had a mixed response. I enjoyed the scope of the first half and the grand images but felt the melodrama went way over the top in the second half. Leigh did a nice job, but I lost interest in the romance by the final hour. I also think there's some problematic racism that's hard to get past in much of it. Regardless, this was an excellent post.