Romantic love is often a catalyst for incredible personal change. And Valentine’s Day – with its pointed focus on emotional sentiment – seems a fine occasion to discuss a few movies which illustrate this fact.
Not necessarily romances by genre, the following films are recent (and generally satisfying) cinematic additions, available on DVD, which graphically prove the awesome power of love.
The Town (2010) – Love conquers (and protects). There’s nothing like love to compel bad men to discard their evil ways.
A very recent treatment of this notion lies within in this well-made thriller about a professional bank robber who decides to quit after falling in love. While this decision predictably causes the bottom to drop out from under everything, believable plot twists and compelling villains ensure that this is at once literate and pulse-raising.
No spoilers here, but an over-the-phone dialogue toward the end is sweeter than many sex scenes.
Score: 9 out of 10.
Crazy Heart (2009) – Love is redemptive.
Jeff Bridges’ phenomenally gripping turn as Bad Blake – an edgy, charismatic, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, itinerant country singer who carries depression like it’s a job requirement – anchors this picture.
Blake would soon become hard to take if not for the entrance of a sweetly sexy Maggie Gyllenhaal, who not only offers redemption but helps sell the spring-fall entanglement at the heart of the film.
The result is a portrait of a sweat-soaked crooner who manages to remain sympathetic even when he’s spitting profanity and puking booze.
Score: 8 out of 10.
Tangled (2010) – Love is hairy.
Disney’s latest animated fairy-tale is about an intelligent young lady endowed with a long rope of magical hair which happens to be perfect for climbing.
That turns out to be awfully convenient when her evil stepmother locks her in a high tower “for her own good”. Enter a dashing rogue to woo her and, well, you get the idea.
The Tangled formula offers no wisdom more profound than this: within the slings and arrows of life, romance offers a respite of fun. So while it may lack substance, this cinematic puff of powdered sugar definitely befits the giddy spirit of St. Valentine’s pink-hued celebration.
Score: 8 out of 10.
I Am Love (2010) – Love makes the universe spin.
Perhaps the only true romance on this list, this fittingly named film demonstrates how great love may open doors to profound renewal. From the opening credits it appears that this will be a long letter from the old world.
And, indeed, it takes its time unfolding the wealthy family at its center. Time expenditure is anathema to Hollywood, which usually demands a “hook” by minute 10.
Here, the slow pace imbues the story with poetic flow, and allows a powerful crescendo to creep up on us.
Easily the most satisfying narrative on affairs of the heart in the last year, it also feels important – for these are the forces which drive the world!
Score: 10 out of 10.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010) – Love is goofy.
Is this the future of love in the movies? A bizarro cross between Annie Hall andMortal Kombat, this video-game rom-com based on a graphic novel misses more often than it hits.
I also mention it here because it seems beloved of an entire younger generation and it is possible, however remotely, that I am somehow out of touch. (Could I just be the possibly stodgy “old critic” whose old soul scratches its metaphysical head at Scott Pilgrim?)
Let’s just hope these folks manage, at very least, to get sexier as they age. This affair also earns kudos for having the daring to create a loveably madcap dreamscape in a most unlikely place: Toronto, Canada.
Score: 5 out of 10.