Local Blogs

Off Hours

By Anita Felicelli

E-mail Anita Felicelli

About this blog: I grew up in Palo Alto and now live in Mountain View with my husband, daughter and two corgis. After about a decade grappling with the law, first as a law student at UC Berkeley and then as a litigator around the Bay Area, I left ...  (More)

View all posts from Anita Felicelli

It's About Time Hollywood Made a Good Romance

Uploaded: Nov 9, 2013
Five or six years ago, I lived with a roommate who loved and owned a DVD copy of "Love, Actually," which was written and directed by Richard Curtis (also the writer of "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral"). My roommate and I couldn't stand each other and fought constantly about dishes and my dogs. Perhaps the only thing we had in common was that we both enjoyed watching this type of treacly romance.

Since I got married a few years ago, I rarely watch new releases of contemporary romantic Hollywood movies and a screenwriting book I read recently says that Hollywood rarely buys romantic comedies of the Nora Ephron variety currently, even though those are some of the most enjoyable of the genre. However, I am a sucker for time travel and romance, even braving the terrible adaptation of "The Time Traveller's Wife" a few years ago, so I decided to go see "About Time" last night.

While watching, I remembered why I rarely go to romantic comedies during their movie theater release any more and why I probably won't go to any more by Richard Curtis. They often have a warped perspective on love.

In "About Time," a father (Bill Nighy) tells his son Tim (Domhnall Gleason) that the males in his family have the ability to time travel. They can go in a cupboard or toilet, clench their fists, close their eyes and wind up at whichever moment in time from their own personal history they want. Tim decides that he wants to use this power to ensure that he finds true love. Hijinks ensue.

The hijinks are meant to be funny and some people around me in the theater did laugh. Mostly men, but occasionally women, too. I found a lot of Tim's actions more creepy than amusing.

Any time a girl tells Tim she might prefer something else, he finds a cupboard and does it all over. Perhaps the most disturbing thing he does is to stalk his future wife Mary (Rachel McAdams) after his time travel makes him lose her phone number (and the experience of meeting her for the first time). He learns that she likes Kate Moss and presents himself as a Kate Moss fan. He learns she recently acquired a boyfriend and he goes back in time to ensure that she doesn't actually meet that boyfriend. His attempts to make his life better are typically concentrated on romantic, rather than financial efforts, but he also evidently goes back in time to fix the outcomes of his trials as a lawyer.

We are supposed to sympathize with our bumbling hero. Instead I found myself thinking that it was sad to present as true love a scenario in which the woman never experiences her real first meeting with her husband, in which the time traveling male decides to propose in a desperate rush after realizing that his first love is not right for him, in which only the man's experience of the relationship, crudely manipulated to achieve the ends he desires, is true and means anything. It's a disturbing view of intimacy.

By the end of the movie, Tim comes around to living life not as a time-traveler, but as an ordinary person who values every mundane minute. I appreciate the sentiment, but it's entirely unearned. While not a bad movie and at times enjoyable, "About Time" also doesn't totally satisfy the craving that thoughtful romantics go to these types of movies to satisfy. Interestingly, the only true love the movie depicts is the love between a father and son.

A half dozen older romantic movies that I think are actually pretty good are available to stream on Netflix: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "A Room With a View," "Monsoon Wedding," "Shakespeare in Love," "Say Anything," and "Roman Holiday." Can you think of any recent romantic movies that you would recommend? Did you enjoy "About Time?"

Comments

Posted by Shamo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

What about Blue Valentine from 2011? Did you like it? If not why not?


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@Shamo, I loved Blue Valentine, but I would say that it's an anti-romantic movie. It's about the realistic death of a marriage, not romance. I doubt anybody wanting to watch a romantic movie would find satisfaction in it.


Posted by movie watcher, a resident of Castro City,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm

As hollywood prefers aiming at an audience that favors super heroes and special effects, old fashioned romance stories are made elsewhere. Many can be found in korean mini-dramas, readily available on local tv (ch. 26.3) or on many free streaming sites.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@movie watcher, interesting, I would never have thought of Korean mini-dramas. Do you recommend any in particular?


Posted by movie watcher, a resident of Castro City,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 9:10 am

There are so numerous, for many different tastes.
Among ones I enjoyed,
For melodrama, "I'm Sorry, I Love You".
For romantic comedy, "The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince", "My Girl", "Fantasy Couple",
For historical, "Princess's Man"
For historical romantic comedy, "Sungkyunkwan Scandal" (currently playing on ch. 26.3 mon-thr.)
You watch these at dramafever.com for free (with commercials).
There are many on-line communities where viewers discuss them, one popular one is dramabeans.com


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 10:07 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@movie watcher, great! Thanks for these suggestions and for reading — I"ll check out a few.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I saw the previews and decided to skip it. I'm more a fan of the films of Hollywood's Golden Age. They had faces then! Here are a few worth seeing: My Man Godfrey, Bringing Up Baby, Romance on the High Seas, It Happened One Night, Desk Set (written by Nora Epron's parents), Christmas in Connecticut, and The Palm Beach Story (some great scenes on a train).


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@Nora Charles - Oh, you've cited some of my favorites - My Man Godfrey, It Happened One Night and Desk Set! I had no idea Desk set was by Nora Ephron's parents, though I knew they were writers. The Thin Man is so great, too. The only two I haven't seen are Romance on the High Seas and Palm Beach Story, but I will find and view them now. Others I love are The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, and His Girl Friday. They aren't romances exactly, but All About Eve and Letter to Three Wives are brilliant. Speaking of Myrna Loy and William Powell- I'm in the process of watching The Libeled Lady... Thanks for reading and offering suggestions!


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm

This post is right up my alley! I am a sucker for a good time travel and romantic comedy, and agree, the vast majority of romcoms are terrible.

Of course, the best one of all time, IMHO, is Groundhog Day. If only I could write a movie like that!!! (It\'s not exactly time travel, but it hits the same intellectual need.)

Have you seen Happy Accidents with Marisa Tomei? Any self-respecting time travel/romance buff should see it!

Also, 50 First Dates

And - right up there with Groundhog Day - While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock.

Oh, and one that will make you sigh and reach for the toothbrush afterwards: Ever After with Drew Barrymore. It\'s so sweet and engaging, you totally forgive her for trying to do an... um... English?... accent.

There is one (I forget the title) with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour (time travel romance) that I don\'t like so much because it\'s sad, but it has the HOTTEST most romantic screen kiss ever. The problem with the new romantic movies is that they just don\'t do LONGING very well. Longing is what makes a romantic movie hot, not watching people shortcut the romance, jump in bed, then spend the rest of the movie in formulaic arguing for a tidy reconciliation to wrap up.

That\'s why My Big Fat Greek Wedding is another good one, they handle humor and desire well.

Oh, and Family Man with Nicholas Cage -- a new take on It\'s a Wonderful Life -- great for us moms. Stick with it past the first 20 minutes, it\'s not what you think from the first scene.

Anyway, I think I\'ve seen all the good ones, but if you think along the same lines and see one I forgot, please clue me in, especially if it\'s time travel AND romance AND funny!

Oh, I almost forgot. The Pink Panther with Steve Martin. HILARIOUS - I liked him better than the original Clouseau - and very sweet romance, too. The sequel is worth watching but not quite as funny as the first.


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Oh, I almost forgot. This one is sad, but it's a redemption story, with a very satisfying, lovely end:

The Painted Veil, with Edward Norton. Not funny, not time travel, but redemption, forgiveness, and finally, true love, all in a satisfying dramatic tale. There are even fewer of those than good romantic comedies. If Hollywood does longing badly, it does redemption even less well. The Shawshank Redemption may be the only one I can think of (not a romance of course, but an all time great film if you haven't seen it).

If you want an incredibly romantic film you can share with a daughter, the Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea films, the versions originally by Wonderworks' Kevin Sullivan, and starring Megan Follows - they're romantic, engaging, sweet, funny. I use them instead of Prozac when I'm blue, they have never failed me LOL. They are longer than feature film length, but you won't notice.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@anne - thanks for your suggestions! I will definitely put Happy Accidents on my list. Marisa Tomei's acting kind of grated on me with Only You, but you're right that sounds like a must-see and I'll give her another shot. I totally agree with you about Groundhog Day and the Anne of Green Gables movies with Megan Fellows. The latter are a great pick-me-up.

The Christopher Reeves/Jane Seymour movie is Somewhere in Time, which got me obsessed with the genre around age 10 and I've seen it perhaps twenty times.

Do you like 13 Going on 30? Kind of a Big for women and it's another of those movies I can watch to get that everything-is-right-with-the-world feeling. You mentioned Family Man - if you liked that perhaps you'll like Peggy Sue Got Married. I also like Donnie Darko, but it is - as you might expect - very dark. Although they aren't about time travel, the Before Sunrise series is a great and realistic exploration of love over time.

I think you're right - not too many really good movies about redemption or longing. I can see why it's difficult to make a good movie about redemption, but I have no idea why longing would prove so difficult since so many creative types that I know, including screenwriters, are afflicted with such painful cases of it. Perhaps it's an ability to write something fresh about something so familiar.


Posted by AC, a resident of another community,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:15 pm

AC is a registered user.

You didn't actually explain what you didn't like about "Love, Actually", and I'd like to know more of your thought, if you're willing?

I have to agree on Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight, but I could write a lot about it. I think I'd prefer to know what you think, though.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@AC - What I didn't like about Love Actually is a certain kind of aw shucks quality. The supposedly nice guys win, but as with About Time, the "nice guys" are actually just bland, not interesting and kind. And like About Time, some are even a little creepy - like the guy who videotapes only his best friend's bride - but we're supposed to root for them to win the women that are barely developed beyond being an object of obsession in many instances. Very little is earned in Love Actually - it's almost all about that nice Christmassy sentiment at the end and not about putting together a truly interesting journey for viewers to feel that emotion on their own through the actual intertwined stories. That said, I do find Love Actually pretty watchable and pleasant, particularly if it's in the background while I'm doing other work. I can't help but enjoy the Christmas vibe and the theme that love conquers all.

In contrast, viewers can actually feel the falling-in-love happening in Before Sunrise and the emotions that Jesse and Celine feel by the end of Before Sunset. We don't really need a voiceover to tell us what to feel, because we feel like we're in the movie. Before Midnight is quite painful in stretches, but like Blue Valentine it taps into the very real phenomenon and problem of how even true love can change with familiarity and a lack of work.

What do you think?


Posted by TimH, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Good blog comments. Living up to "Love, Actually" is a tall order, especially after so much time (ten years) passed, and inexplicably taking the audience into an "R" rated follow up. Perhaps the director felt that we are all jaded by premium-cable television series plots? I concur with Anne regarding "Groundhog Day" as a favorite; a key element of "Day", along with Bill Murray's presence, is that Phil learns the hard lessons after he thought he had figured it out. In "About Time", does Tim learn anything about himself, his love, or life in general? Is there anything beyond self-satisfaction? Without a sense of redemption or similar, the story would seem to rely on a time-worn gimmick. I will not claim to be any kind of expert in the romantic comedy genre, but as a result of Hollywood trying this thousands of times, some good examples emerge. I recommend "Serendipity", followed distantly by "Say Anything" and "Last of the Dogmen". I've added the third so that it cannot be said that I'm just a John Cusack fan. :)


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

@Anita,
I LOVED 13 Going on 30! I will try some of the things you mentioned, I have never seen Donnie Darko or the Before Sunrise series! I tend not to like things that are too dark, but I did enjoy Harold and Maude (a…sort of…romance).


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

@Anita,
Did you like New Year's Eve? It's kind of like Love Actually, but a little more lightweight.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@TimH - I can't believe I forgot about Serendipity. So enjoyable, as is High Fidelity. I think there is some redemption in "About Time," just not enough for me personally. The main character is very controlling at the beginning of the pic - he wants very badly to find true love and will go back in time tirelessly to make sure he gets it. I'd argue, however, that he finds redemption because of his lifelong love of his father and his adherence to his father's advice. He doesn't find it by learning to love his wife as an individual with her own needs and personality. Rather, he learns to stop and smell the roses - to appreciate time for what it is, rather than try to change everything that happens. It's a good message, just one that has less to do with the advertised romance than it does with parent-child relationships.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@anne - I didn't realize you don't like dark categorically - you probably should steer clear of Donnie Darko. You might still like Before Sunrise and the second movie, but only if you enjoy romantic stuff that's a little more cerebral and less Hollywoody. I'm afraid New Year's Eve (and Valentine's Day) were too easy for me, but I did find them fun to watch just once apiece.


Posted by reader, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Have you seen the Japanese film "Love Letter" directed by Iwai Shunji?


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@reader, I haven't seen it but the plot as told via Wikipedia is fascinating. Thanks for the suggestion - I'll see if they have it at the library.


Posted by Stephanie, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

Have you seen "Celeste and Jesse Forever?" It's really good.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@Stephanie, thanks for commenting. I've seen "Celeste and Jesse Forever." For me, it's more in the "Blue Valentine" anti-romance category.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Anita,

I love the movies you mentioned, especially Letter to Three Wives. You obviously have a great love of movies of all eras, and I applaud you for that. If you like the offbeat, try Choose Me (1980s) with Keith Carradine, Genvieve Bujold (sp!!), and Lesley Ann Warren. It wasn't terribly popular (the ones I like often aren't!), but I think you might like it.

I look forward to reading more from you.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Thanks for the suggestion @Nora Charles! You're right, I absolutely love movie of all kinds. I'll definitely put Choose Me on my to-watch list - The premise looks really interesting.


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 17, 2013 at 2:09 am

Anita,
I can\'t argue about New Year\'s Eve (Valentine\'s Day was unmemorable) - Leah Michelle\'s performance of Auld Lang Syne made it memorable for me.

On the subject of sort-of oldies -- Do you remember Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty? I haven\'t seen it lately so don\'t know if it held up over time. It was so original in its day, and such a beautiful romance. I also liked Only the Lonely, with John Candy and Ally Sheedy, believe it or not. Another one that surprised me - Just like Heaven, with Reese Witherspoon. Not Groundhog Day or even close, but more meaty than New Year\'s Eve. (Not very old, but I missed it when it came out.) Splash was also good. Guys and Dolls with Marlon Brando, I can\'t remember if the movie was hot, but Brando at that age put it in that category!

In its own way, Oh Brother Where Art Thou is, at its heart a (comic) romance....

The very recent PBS remake of Jane Eyre is the best one I\'ve seen, even better than the 2011 film remake, and the romance surprisingly steamy - intense longing, well done.

I liked Avatar better than the men in our household - I think because it\'s a romance at its heart. ("My Jake"!) I could watch that scene over and over with a lump in my throat even though it\'s a big blue alien and a guy in a stupor.

Do you have any opinions about the romances available for free right now on Amazon prime?


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 17, 2013 at 7:56 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@anne - I haven't seen Heaven Can Wait in a long while. I really like the idea of O Brother Where Art Thou as a comic romance, particularly when I think of its connection to the Odysseus-Penelope storyline. Thanks for letting me know about the PBS Jane Eyre- loved the 2011 film, so I'm eager to see how they compare.

Amazon Prime has a lot of really great romance classics - a better selection than Netflix instant streaming has - but in my opinion far fewer great choices from post 1990. Here's a list of what I love among the romances that are available:
You've Got Mail or The Shop Around the Corner
Casablanca
Sleepless in Seattle
Amelie
Breakfast at Tiffany's
The Apartment
The Philadelphia Story
Like Water for Chocolate
The Way We Were
Impromtu
Sabrina
The Age of Innocence
Two for the Road
Barefoot in the Park
Kissing Jessica Stein
Nothing Sacred
My Man Godfrey


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm

@ Anita,
I have not seen all of the ones on your list and really appreciate the new material. I have wondered about the Age of Innocence - does it have a happy ending? I somehow never really appreciated Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail, though. I checked out Donnie Darko before I saw your note above but have not watched it yet. When you say it's dark, does that mean it has a sad ending? I'm not a tearjerker romance fan, I need a satisfying happy ending. I once saw a program that aired Sweet Charity (with Shirley Maclaine) with the original theater release ending (bittersweet) and then an alternate happy ending they shot but never aired. I wish they had worked a little harder at the happy ending, which could have worked if they had had refined it.

Oh, one I almost forgot - have you seen Tortilla Soup? It's a remake of Eat Drink Man Woman only with food from Mexico (and a little sillier and sweeter). It is hands down the best food movie I can recall. I love cooking shows and never cook anything from them! Combining cooking and romantic comedy...

I also recently saw Letters to Juliet -- also kind of a lightweight romance, but the performance by Vanessa Redgrave has so much depth it's like nothing I've seen in a theater for years. I didn't even realize it was her for a long time (I'm not familiar with her work, I just know she's famous), and I kept wondering who IS that?!

I really appreciate this blog entry and the discussion -- I am so tired of wasting my time on bad bad romcom's to find the few worth watching!


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@anne, I find that happy endings don't always work with the material in both books and film, but I agree that when done well, they are very emotionally satisfying. That's certainly what I love so much about Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea. And in Little Women, for example, there's something so unsatisfying about Jo's romance with Professor Bhaer compared with the one she might have had with Laurie. A fantastic book and reasonably good set of movies turned grim by an author's stubbornness. Age of Innocence doesn't have a happy ending, but it's a beautiful movie. Donnie Darko is dark in every way, not just in the ending - about a schizophrenic teenager, his family and the girl he likes. I only mentioned it because it is romantic and involves time travel. I haven't seen Tortilla Soup, but I quite enjoyed Eat Drink Man Woman, so I'll add that to the list. I've been meaning to watch Letters to Juliet because I like the premise so much- will see if it's free to stream on Netflix or Amazon. I liked Happy Accidents, by the way. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post - I have watched a lot of good/bad movies and enjoy trading opinions.


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

@Anita,
I, too, really appreciate trading opinions on movies. I love finding gems based on a good recommendation rather than slogging through 10 bad ones to find it myself! Based on what you just said, I may think about Donnie Darko for awhile and watch the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset movies I just picked up from the library first. I like satisfying movies of all kinds, but I usually want something on the uplifting side and a relatively happy ending.

When you say Age of Innocence doesn't have a happy ending, is it like The Painted Veil (not a happy ending but such a beautiful movie and redemptive, I loved it) or like Atonement (which I acknowledge was a good movie with a powerful romance, but it was so depressing, this is not the kind of movie I want to watch).

Today I was just reminded of Will Ferrell's The Other Guys. I am often put off by too much bathroom or puerile humor in his movies, but this one was hilarious. The romance between Ferrell's character and the character of his wife in the movie was sidesplitting and ultimately very sweet. While the movie wasn't romantic comedy, the romance element was very memorable for the humorous way it portrayed their relationship.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@anne - Age of Innocence is closer to Atonement - there is no redemption for anyone - so I think that was probably not a good recommendation for your tastes. Sorry! It's hard to make good individualized recommendations without knowing the viewer in real life. Thanks for suggesting "The Other Guys." I'm often put off by Will Ferrell's brand of humor, too, but my husband really enjoys unwinding with his movies, so maybe that's one we can watch together.


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:19 am

Thanks for letting me know about Age of Innocence. Sorry to ask for a revisit of the list, but I'd love to know which of the ones I haven't seen on your recommended list has a relatively happy ending:
Amelie
The Philadelphia Story
The Way We Were (isn't this a classic tearjerker? sometimes they can be okay, but I've been afraid to watch it...)
Impromptu
Two for the Road
Kissing Jessica Stein
Nothing Sacred
My Man Godfrey

Something I really enjoyed that is now on Amazon Prime (under TV) is a PBS miniseries called The Buccaneers. It's not a happy ending in the classic sense, but the main characters find love in the end, it is romantic and human.

I was just scrolling through an online list of IMDB's top 100 romantic comedies (and thinking 9 out of 10 of their choices are forgettable or a waste of time), and came across Shallow Hal, which I really enjoyed. Also loved Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black, which has a romance element. His movies I seem to either love or hate. Shallow Hal was one of those movies that exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 6:04 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi @anne - The Way We Were is a classic tearjerker, but I wouldn't say it's dark the way Atonement is. It's one of those endings that still leaves you feeling like it was all worthwhile. I can't remember the end of Impromptu. The rest on that list are relatively happy - I think the ending of Kissing Jessica Stein is in the same vein as The Way We Were, but not at all a tearjerker. I liked The Buccaneers, too. The only movie I've liked Jack Black in is High Fidelity.


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:14 pm

@Anita,
I don't know if it's a pain for you to continue a conversation in an old blog post, if so, let me know. I just wanted to follow through on some of the movies I watched because of your post.

I watched Knocked Up and loved it, to my surprise. I had never watched Knocked Up because I figured it would be trite and predictable. Not so. It was actually one of those few movies where the transformations of the characters and their relationships felt real and believable, despite the quirkiness of the comedy. And real and believable in a satisfying and happy ending. It was funny and yet real life. My one beef with the movie is the relentless torrent of profanity. Profanity can be funny if used sparingly, but when movies overdo it is just boring and wearing. Recently, Bill Cosby came down on John Stewart about this -- overusing profanity is just lazy and it stops being funny real fast. One thing I really loved about Knocked Up - even though it sort of followed that jump-in-bed-fall-out-spend-rest-of-movie-in-conflict-then-make-up template, the reconciliations unfolded in the movie as the relationships did. One of my relatives is a Quaker and has talked about starting an award for portraying peacemaking in movies, and I actually thought this would be a good one, because it really showed how people work through their problems, how they grow, and yes, how they can change (because people do change) for the better. The movie didn't just start the resolution in the last 2 minutes.

But I was really disappointed in Before Sunset. Is it just because I watched it out of sequence? If so, I'll give the other two a try (still waiting at the library). I find most romances that involve infidelity to be very uncomfortable and don't enjoy them. A romance is an escape; when infidelity is involved, the romantic lead just seems creepy to me. A movie like The Painted Veil, which is a redemption story, or like Castaway (not a romance, but the relationships at the end), use infidelity differently and are different than a movie where the romance is unfolding while the person is still involved with someone else. I didn't enjoy Sleepless in Seattle for that reason, even watched it twice because everyone else liked it so much.

I don't like all of Jack Black's movies either, but have you seen Gulliver's Travels? Funny, enjoyable and sweet (though light and trite), romance.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:59 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Anne- Thanks for letting me know how you enjoyed and did not enjoy those movies. I would say that if you watched the Before Sunrise series out of sequence and as a result the infidelity aspect jumped out at you, it would be hard to get that first impression out of your mind. Infidelity is not at issue at all in the first one, but you'll probably interpret the romance differently from seeing them out of order. By the way, I said this in another comment, but you must have missed it, I definitely don't recommend Before Midnight for you - an excellent movie, but it violates your preference for completely happy endings. I have seen Gulliver's Travels, but it wasn't really my kind of thing. I agree about profanity generally, and especially when thinking about profanity in books where it gets older much more quickly. But sometimes that's just how certain groups of people (like the people in Knocked Up) would talk in real life, so in those instances it would negatively affect verisimilitude to tone it down.


Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:40 pm

"But sometimes that's just how certain groups of people (like the people in Knocked Up) would talk in real life, so in those instances it would negatively affect verisimilitude to tone it down."

Hi Anita,
Thanks for your thoughts on the Sunset series. i think I'm going to try the others anyway, since although I did not appreciate the romance so much, I did enjoy the dialog. It sounds like I should watch the first with an open mind.

I have to challenge this idea, though, that so much profanity is necessary because that's how people talk. Movies and television are compressed fictions. They represent but do not literally mimic life. Lawyers spend 90% of their time reading and writing horribly boring things (to the rest of , at least), but no one would watch legal dramas if that's what was shown with the justification that that's what they do in real life.

Profanity can set a tone and give punch to certain scenes, but too much of it is boring and lazy writing, in my opinion. I agree with Bill Cosby on that. And it's not romantic!

Frozen has by far the best animated screen kiss I've seen. I loved the message for girls, too - get to know someone before falling in love - and they managed to show it in a romantic story.

Happy movie watching in the new year. Despite the lack of great romantic comedies, I think in general movies are better now than 30 years ago.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 28, 2013 at 7:26 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Thanks for your thoughts Anne. I like your analogy to legal dramas, but I notice from the comments on multiple posts, my tolerance for slower pace and closer mimicking of reality in art, film, television and books is a little different from the mainstream view of them. As our society gets increasingly sped up and overproduced and narrow, I find myself preferring the more raw and expansive- which will including more 'boring' bits, more swearing, more of what's in the margins etc. Though I agree, swearing is not romantic! And I'm so thankful I am not in a relationship with someone like Seth Rogen's character in Knocked Up. If that were a television series, the general ambiance of swearing, pot smoke, and idiocy would totally keep me from wanting to watch it.

By the way, I'm thinking about writing about Frozen and feminism next week, which might be of more interest to you than some of my other posts. Happy new year!


Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Dec 28, 2013 at 9:53 am

Just came across this blog and appreciate the idea.

Didn\'t really like Love Actually.

Best RCs I can think of are Notting Hill, Sleepless in Seattle and You\'ve Got Mail. Love the aspect of what it would be like for a celeb and an ordinary guy to fall in love in Notting Hill. Sleepless in Seattle shows a side to death and what happens afterwards. You\'ve got Mail is full of Pride and Prejudice and works well.

If you consider romance as boy meets girl then this one doesn\'t come into that category, but Philomena which is out now is a movie with depths of various levels and shows a mother\'s love.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi C - thanks for sharing your take. I enjoyed "You've Got Mail," but prefer the first film version "The Shop Around the Corner." Although I happened to write about romantic comedies in this post, I do enjoy love stories that deviate from a boy-girl romance. We're fortunate that there are a lot of good movies that focus on love of all kinds (like Philomena) and many of them are significantly more profound and smart than the romantic comedies that we get from Hollywood.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 2 comments | 2,791 views

WUE makes out-of-state tuition more affordable
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 2,730 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 2,316 views

Go Giants! Next Stop: World Series!
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,760 views

In Defense of "Incivility"
By Douglas Moran | 18 comments | 1,695 views