Holiday Movie Rundown: Sad, funny, cute — V-Day viewing for all preferences
February 10, 2012
Romantic movie suggestions
"The Jane Austen Book Club"
"Some Like It Hot"
"Last Chance Harvey"
"Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans"
The day reserved for telling the people you love just how much they mean to you can invoke some pretty powerful emotions. What with the violent legends regarding the man for whom St. Valentine's Day is named, it's no surprise that romance on the silver screen can come in all varieties.
Some couples may appreciate the lightness of something like "The Proposal," while others may find the tragic "Love Story" their best bet.
If you're looking for something to snuggle up on the couch with, but you're not sure which of the varying degrees of devotion in classic and current releases is for you, peruse the following list to determine where you stand on the Movie Love-o-Meter.
Fluffy and fun
"The Jane Austen Book Club" — When Bernadette (Kathy Baker) befriends Prudie (Emily Blunt), a fellow devotee of the works of author Jane Austen, she is inspired to form a book club exclusively for the writer's novels.
As the six members read and discuss Austen's masterpieces over the course of a year, each of women's lives begin to mirror her reading material.
The movie adapted from a novel that was likely the talking point of many book clubs itself when it was first published is highly entertaining with a fresh, funny ensemble cast.
A basic understanding of Austen's bibliography helps, but you don't really need it to enjoy watching the club members as they each tackle one of the books.
For instance, there's Maria Bello as unattached Jocelyn, the embodiment of "Emma," who insists on fixing up the group's only male member (Hugh Dancy) with her best friend (Amy Brenneman), who's newly separated from her husband (Jimmy Smits).
Trouble is, Jocelyn's reluctantly drawn to him herself, just like Austen's beloved matchmaker.
The multiple love stories fit together perfectly in a manner befitting the woman who created "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility," "Mansfield Park" and more.
"Some Like It Hot" — After witnessing a gangland slaying in 1929 Chicago, musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon) are on the run from ruthless mobster Spats Colombo (George Raft) and his men.
A quick decision to disguise themselves as women gets more complicated when they hop a train and join a girls-only musical combo headed for Florida.
As if that weren't knotty enough, Joe falls for the group's singer (Marilyn Monroe) and sets out to woo her with yet another alter ego, that of a dashing playboy.
One of the few "men in drag" films that works is also one of the undisputed greatest comedies of all time.
The leading lady has the best moments of her short career as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, while Curtis and Lemmon are hilarious whether they're Joe and Jerry or Josephine and Daphne.
The romance between Joe and Sugar is humorous in itself, but the real laughs come from Jerry's oblivious suitor, millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who just can't understand the girl of his dreams isn't what he expects.
Well, nobody's perfect.
Life stinks until you find that special someone
"Modern Times" — A machinist (Charlie Chaplin) who can't handle the pressures of the working world isn't much more adept at taking on unemployment.
In and out of jail for various reasons, he eventually meets a young lady (Paulette Goddard) whose destitution has left her jaded to the possibility of a better life.
Chaplin's shenanigans will delight one and all, even if you have little interest in a semi-silent film. Whether it's the perpetual speed of the conveyor belt scene — which inspired one of the best gags from "I Love Lucy" — the frolicking in an empty department store or the difficulties of going "in" through the "out" door of a restaurant kitchen, the giggles are endless.
The comedian's critique of capitalism in an urban setting during the Great Depression is certainly dated, but the relationship between the goofy guy and his loving gal as they take on a harsh, unforgiving society is timeless, marking a perfect swan song for Chaplin's Little Tramp character.
"Last Chance Harvey" — When American commercial jingle writer Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) travels to London for his daughter's (Liane Balaban) wedding, his presence at the gathering is barely tolerated, let alone welcome.
When he encounters English native Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), he impetuously asks her to be his date and starts to feel a greater connection the more time he spends with her.
Though he plays a loser, Hoffman is winning as a man whose entire life has amounted to little more than a series of disappointments and compromises, and Thompson is just as wonderful as shy, lonesome Kate, a lifelong wallflower suddenly shocked to find a man who treats her special. No matter how many times you've lost in love, a movie like this proves that it's never too late to get it right.
Love is all you need
"Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" —The life of a happy couple (George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor) is shattered when the husband is seduced by a heartless temptress (Margaret Livingston) and the wife can no longer bear to live with the worry of their marriage ending.
When his mistress suggests he murder his wife and run away with her, he seriously considers it but is unable to follow through with the plot, leaving their future together uncertain.
What starts as a dark tale of duplicity turns into a beautiful account of two people rekindling their love despite the substantial rift between them.
"Nosferatu" filmmaker F.W. Murnau uses his expertise in German Expressionism to craft a strange, stylish world in which the nameless sweethearts get wrapped up as they discover that old feeling once again.
Melodramatic to be sure, but few movies from 1927 could really be called realistic.
FYI: This was the first and only recipient of the Academy Award for Best Unique and Artistic Production, before the Oscars chose to merge the more inventive entries with the big-budget features in the race for Best Picture. Perhaps they should revisit that idea.
"Restless" — Quiet, withdrawn high school dropout Enoch (Henry Hopper) has few interests beyond attending funerals for people he never knew.
More than once, he crosses paths with Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), a quirky girl who seems to share in his odd hobby.
When they strike up a friendship, it leads to something deeper when they realize they are soul mates. For Enoch, it may be too good to be true when he finds out his new lady love has inoperable brain cancer and a mere three months to live.
This is hardly the first story of a doomed free spirit who brightens up the life of a chronic weirdo, with a particular parallel to "Harold and Maude," sans the six-decade age difference.
Even so, this bittersweet romance, woefully disregarded during its 2011 release, is full of vigor with Wasikowska exceptional as ornithological enthusiast Annabel and Hopper, the son of late actor Dennis Hopper, pleasantly peculiar in his starring debut as a young man whose best friend is the ghost of a World War II kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase) who only wants to play the board game "Battleship."
"Match Point" — British tennis instructor Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) begins a relationship with Chloe, (Emily Mortimer) the sister of his friend and student Tom (Matthew Goode), but his real attention lies with Tom's fiancée Nola (Scarlett Johansson), an American who doesn't really fit in with the high society family.
Misgivings about carrying on behind the back of his girlfriend — and eventual wife — don't prevent Chris from seeing Nola on the side, but when she wants more from him, he is forced to make a difficult choice.
It's not often Woody Allen gets this somber in his movies, but this drama is just as valid a love story as any of his comedies, in this instance framed as a morality tale.
The cautionary narrative of "love gone wrong" has more in common with "Fatal Attraction" than "Annie Hall," but hopefully it'll give you pause if you ever feel like committing adultery.
"The Reader" — In 1958, German teenager Michael Berg (David Kross) is waylaid by scarlet fever on his way home from school, and only with the help of a kind stranger named Hanna (Kate Winslet) is he able to start to recover.
When he attempts to thank her for her assistance, the two instead begin an erotic affair over the summer that ends as quickly as it began, and it isn't until years later when he is in law school that he sees Hanna again.
While Michael is observing trials of war crimes, he learns his former paramour was part of the Nazi regime. Yet, even that isn't her biggest secret…
The steamy sexual encounter the young man and older woman share in his youth is only part of the story in this account of how a brief brush with love can linger and haunt a person for their entire life, as seen by Michael as an adult (Ralph Fiennes), going over and over the events in his head as he suffers from a midlife crisis in the 1990s.
Though there's virtually no hope for a happy ending here, the passion involved in Michael's formative years is a sensation many of us can hardly hope to feel.