Two more types of bad love

I’ve written before about problems I have with various romance elements (job vs. love, bad premises and others), but rewatching Forget Paris this week made me think of a couple more.
Forget Paris(which I’ll cover again in my next movie/book post) is the story of basketball referee Billy Crystal meeting and falling for airline executive Debra Winger. They marry but run into troubles: His job keeps him on the road, and Winger hates staying at home alone, but when he changes jobs to stay home, he hates that just as much.
How do they work it out? At the climax of the movie, they fly into each other’s arms, kiss and … just forget about all the problems.
I hate that. I can make a lot of optimistic assumptions about love conquering all—wildly mismatched couples will work out, couples who hate each other will discover they’re drawn together like magnets—but if the story raises practical problems (marrying across the color line in 1940, a drug habit, grinding poverty) they need to be addressed. The problem in this film is big enough that They Love Each Other isn’t enough.
I had the same problem with Ron Howard’s 1994 The Paper. One of the multiple subplots is that Marisa Tomei is convinced editor husband Michael Keaton, despite all his promises to co-parent, will blow her off whenever the paper needs him. The story shows this is a valid issue, but it’s never resolved: Tomei pops out her baby at the end, Keaton stands next to her looking happy … if the subtext was that he’s seen the light, I’d have liked a little more text, thank you.
Moving on to Topic Two: Movies which hinge on the idea that some great-looking woman is actually kind of ugly.
Case in point, America’s Sweethearts (2001). A lot of the romantic plot hinges on the fact Julia Roberts (as movie star Catherine Zeta-Jones’ sister and errand girl) used to weigh 70 pounds heavier. Which made her so drab and unattractive that she has never known love, ever (tragic isn’t it?). I’m sorry, but there is no way a slightly heavier Julia Roberts is so ugly she ain’t getting any (even given the movie stacks the deck by dressing her as mousy as possible—as if being heavier means you can’t possibly know anything about how to dress well).
Another, better movie with the same problem is The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996), which assumes that Janine Garofalo is likewise too plain to get any dates, despite the fact she’s good-looking (she reminds me a little of TYG) and a highly successful professional. Garofalo conveys very well that her character is shy and insecure; the standard argument about casting good-looking women in these roles is invariably that “Well, good-looking people can be insecure, can’t they?” But even so, I don’t buy it. And in fact, neither does the movie: When Garofalo asks the male lead if he’d be interested in Uma Thurman if she looked as plain as Garofalo, the response is not “Yes, I’d hit that” but an awkward pause, like she really isn’t attractive.
The reverse, of course, is where the male star, no matter how old or what he looks like, gets reactions as if he were a Greek god. I can understand the laws of movie romance make it inevitable Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts will pair up in I Love Trouble, but I have real trouble assuming Nolte is (apparently) the hottest babe magnet in Chicago. Likewise, I couldn’t see for the life of me why Diane Keaton opted for Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give rather than Keanu Reaves: All he does is make one speech about what’s going on in her head, she announces “Wow, you get me” and that was about it. I’m guessing that given Nicholson’s off-screen reputation as a Lothario, the fact his on-screen character is not a movie superstar and therefore doesn’t have the same aura didn’t occur to anyone (“It’s Jack! Of course she’ll fall for him.”).
I’m sure down the road I’ll think of other types.

1 Comment

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One response to “Two more types of bad love

  1. Pingback: A movie, a couple of books, some TPBs | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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