Some people are Valentine’s Day people and some just aren’t.
Some of us can’t wait to buy the corny greeting cards, watch the saccharine jewelry commercials on TV or make reservations at an overpriced, overcrowded restaurant catering to the gooey holiday crowd. For the rest of us… well… let’s just say that we’d rather celebrate Valentine’s Day by staying at home with our sweetheart, watching a romantic comedy.
But not just any romantic comedy. The DVD shelves are abound with some mind-numbingly awful “romantic” movies. However, amid the dreck, some memorable, quirky romantic comedies can be found.
As a service to our readers, MM has chosen several movies that break the typical romantic comedy mold. These movies feature quirky couples who prove that love can grow even in the most unlikely of situations.
One reliable source of romantic movie magic is the pairing of an uptight, repressed man with a free-spirited, spontaneous woman. Who can forget the surprisingly profitable business-romantic venture of a naive high school student and streetwise prostitute in Paul Brickman’s Risky Business? With the help of Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), the prostitute who initiates him into manhood, Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) transforms from a conventional, All-American “future enterpriser” to a cunning businessman when he turns his suburban house into a one-night-only brothel in this witty 1983 classic.
In Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), Jeff Daniels plays a similar kind of character 10 years down the line: An uptight yuppie who gets kidnapped by Lulu (Melanie Griffith), a wild, unpredictable woman who, in the span of a weekend, changes Charlie’s life and releases his inner free spirit.
Jim Carrey plays a meek, introverted man who embarks on a romantic journey with an uninhibited woman (Kate Winslet) in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Charlie Kaufman’s mind-bending script won a well-deserved Oscar and while the movie’s non-chronological pacing and science-fiction elements can get complicated, the main characters’ true-to-life romantic relationship keeps the movie grounded in reality.
The 1970s gave us some great quirky romantic couples. Perhaps the quintessential pairing is neurotic New Yorker Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and spacey Midwestern title character Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) in Allen’s Oscar-winning 1977 classic. Likewise, buttoned-up museum curator Gena Rowlands and wacky hippie parking attendant Seymour Cassel find unexpected love in John Cassavetes‘ Minnie and Moskowitz (1971). Of course the king (and queen) of oddball pairings is Hal Ashby’s cult classic Harold and Maude (1971). It would probably be difficult to find a romantic pairing as polar opposite as Harold (Bud Cort), a young man obsessed with death, and Maude (Ruth Gordon), an old woman rejuvenated by the simple pleasures of living.
The notion of falling in love with a criminal is one that has been explored in a number of movies. In Buffalo ’66 (1998), writer-director-actor Vincent Gallo plays Billy, a grungy ex-con just released from prison, who kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci), a mild-mannered ballet dancer, so that he can lie to his delusional parents that they’re married. Despite the offbeat circumstances, Layla comes to realize Billy is emotionally damaged and, despite his problems, grows to love him.
In Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998), a similar situation arises when a hardened federal marshal (Jennifer Lopez) finds herself falling for a suave bank robber (George Clooney) on the run. Named one of the 50 Sexiest Movies Ever by Entertainment Weekly, Out of Sight is an underrated crime-comedy-romantic-thriller that combines a multitude of genres. Yet at its core lies the white-hot romance between cop and criminal.
Gay romances have also proven to be a source for quirky pairings. In Kissing Jessica Stein (2001), a single, straight woman (Jennifer Westfeldt), successful in work but not in love, meets a gay woman (Heather Juergensen) through a personal ad and embarks on a hilarious, heartwarming journey into uncharted territory. The Birdcage (1996) centers around a mismatched pair of gay men (played by Robin Williams and Nathan Lane), with hilarious and touching results.
A different kind of love sparks in auteur Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002), about a socially inept man (Adam Sandler) who becomes romantically involved with an odd, elusive woman (Emily Watson) who proves to be the answer to his lonely woes.
There are of course many more quirky pairings and oddball movie romances (so please leave your favorites in the comments section), but what these movies prove is that love truly can conquer all, even in the most unexpected of scenarios. So, this Valentine’s Day, consider cuddling up with your neurotic loved one and watching one of these hilarious and heartfelt delights. MM