Monday, July 12, 2010

"It Was An Improbable Romance..."

If there's one thing I really don't like, its when people assume they know what's best for me. I mean, really, how could you? Worse than that however is when inanimate objects presume to know what's best for me.

So, imagine my frustration that Facebook likes to tell me what I should and should not like. It never seems to really suggest anything I might actually like however, and I frequently am at odds with the suggestions made. One notable example is that it likes to tell me that I should like sappy romance movies, such as The Notebook. I hate The Notebook. I hate what it stands for. I hate how everyone loves it. And I especially hate when people tell me that its such a great love story. Even the tagline for the movie is "Behind every great love, there is a great story."

Perhaps that is true, but The Notebook in no way depicts a "great love." What it does is portray an unrealistic form of affection between two very boring and formulaic characters.

Allow me to lay down some terminology here for you. The Notebook suffers from what I like to call "The OMG Shakespeare" Phenomenon. Here's how it goes: Two young, attractive, and (overwhelmingly) Caucasian protagonists meet and almost immediately fall in love. Oh, but that love doesn't involve sex right off the bat, because even though they are young and attractive and should by all means be like two bunnies going at it, they can't because something comes between their romance. They then overcome it and their true love triumphs over all.

Most of the time in these kinds of movies the obstacle is social class. The poorer-than-normal (but not too poor because that shit is gross) Caucasian teen male with the floppy hair falls head over heels for the richer than normal (the sky is the limit on the wealth here, because only poor people are gross) Caucasian teen female that may or may not have a dumb accent. Their separate castes always work in some way to keep them apart. This is obviously the case in movies like Titanic, The Notebook, and Pirates of the Caribbean series. This draws from the old "star-crossed lovers" trope that tends to be so popular these days. Some times, the obstacles can be different than just wealth, such as feuding families (Romeo and Juliet), differing goals (Marius and Cosette from Les Miserables), or the whim of a madman (Speed).

I do give some credit to The Notebook, because one thing I haven't seen is the obstacle to one's love be SPOILER ALERT a crippling condition that causes memory loss. They didn't go far enough however. The "love story" part of the movie is solely when they are younger (because old people are gross). Just think about it, the focus of the movie isn't a devoted husband that has his memory caring for his ill wife that has lost her memory somewhere (perhaps its in her winter coat, I know I tend to lose things in my winter coat). Quick, when you think of The Notebook what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Did I get it right? You're god damned right I got it right. No one thinks of the old people, they just think of the snotty chick that breaks one dude's heart for another dude and then subsequently breaks dude #2's heart for dude #1 so that they could have this romantic kiss in the rain.

What The Notebook should have focused on was the two when they were older. Perhaps, because snotty chick went with the poor guy, they would be running out of money for care. So there would be those pressures on the poor guy in addition to trying to get his wife to remember him. And he keeps trying, but sadly nothing takes BECAUSE ITS ALZHEIMER'S AND YOU DON'T SUDDENLY SNAP OUT OF THAT. And since we're dealing with Alzheimer's, why not make it more realistic and add in the irritability and aggression that is also commonly associated with the disease. And instead of being really sappy the movie just becomes soul-crushingly depressing. Hell, I'd see that movie.

One thing I've neglected to mention is that it can't be true love, because in order to even get her to talk to him, the floppy-haired male protagonist has to THREATEN HER WITH HIS OWN LIFE on the Ferris wheel. So ladies, you know that the next time that creepy, socially awkward kid tells you that if you don't go out with him he won't know what to do with himself, don't look at him as the creepy, socially awkward kid. Instead, look upon him with the utmost affection and love, because he's just living in a fantasy that he knows that you'll love, because The Notebook is an awful movie and an awful love story.

Now, you may be thinking "This is just a rant from an angry person. There's no way Rollo truly understands the concept of love on-screen. He just hates all romances." Not true at all. I love movie romances. I consider myself a romantic in the worst way (Not the hang from a Ferris wheel to get you to go out with me way, that shit be crazy). I just have no patience for awful love stories that trick people into loving them. And just to prove it, here are my favorite love stories from the Silver Screen.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 2008
- I love this movie. I love it because the love story in it isn't just some cooked up Hollywood trash. Jason Segel wrote it based off of a lot of his breakups, like his one with Linda Cardellini. Yeah its funny, but you can see the devastation on his face when Peter realizes that he just got dumped by Sarah Mashall and he reacts like anyone would, by getting drunk and having as much anonymous sex as possible.

I have to praise this movie for the characters above everything else. You see progression and growth in their portrayal. You see them at their lowest points. And you see them rise from that and become better for it. I like to think of it as a movie warning against trying to run from your problems (which is what Peter is doing in Hawaii in the first place). You also see growth in the relationship between Rachel and Peter, and you understand why they fall in love with each other, as opposed to being absolutely baffled why the couple in The Notebook fall in love.

Chasing Amy, 1997
- I'm not going to praise this one for the way in which the two characters get together, because that just kinda boils down to they were friends and why the hell not fall in love with each other? What I like this movie for is that it doesn't show a relationship without its problems. Whereas in The Notebook all of the problems the couple has can be traced back to the obstacle (social class and the mom), this one shows actual problems happening between them.

Its also notable because it ends sourly, NOT QUITE UNLIKE REAL LIFE am I right? Great parts of this movie are Silent Bob's speech about Amy and how he sabotaged their relationship, as well as Ben Affleck. Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms yo.

Sunset Boulevard, 1950
- This movie is an absolute classic. Norma is completely insane, and yet Max and Joe obviously fall for her. They are in love in as much as they help perpetuate her dementia. Another love story in this movie is Joe and Betty's relationship. She falls for Joe in spite of the fact that she's about to marry his best friend. In the end, Joe calls things off and sends her back to her fiancé because he knows he is bad for her. Blows any modern romance out of the water. A great movie that everyone should see.

- I would love to be able to tell you how this is so much better than The Notebook, but the fact is most of the people I know haven't seen this movie. Shame on you. Generally, I scoff at people for whining about spoilers and such on movies that have been around for more than thirty-five years, but this is one of the immaculate few that I refuse to spoil for anyone, and you should all go out and see this right now.

Evil Dead II, 1987
- A strange choice for a list of best romances? I don't think so. Evil Dead II at its core is a horror movie. If you look a layer deeper, you find that the love story is actually very intriguing and can be counted as one of the best out there. Still not getting it? Okay, I'll fill you in.

Ash goes to a cabin in the woods for the weekend with the love of his life, Linda. Whilst there, they both unwittingly release evil spirits from the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. Throughout the madness of it all, Linda gets possessed by the evil forces and becomes a deadite and goes to kill Ash. He eventually decapitates her and buries her in the woods. Afterward, the poor guy gets possessed by the same evil that got Linda. He recovers due to the intervention of Mr. Sun.

After all of this, Ash finds he's trapped in the woods with the evil that was released. All of this pushes Ash into a downward spiral of depression. Hell, how would you feel if you just killed your girlfriend via decapitation? I probably wouldn't be feeling very good. All of his depression and burgeoning insanity take physical form in the various monstrosities that plague the cabin.

As he's brought to the absolute brink, Annie comes into his life. He's disturbed by her appearance at first (he fires his shotgun at her), but through the trials and tribulations brought about by the Necronomicon, Ash learns to love again.

How is that not a more beautiful love story than two young kids separated by social class and bonded only by the certainty that one of them will throw himself off of a Ferris wheel unless the other goes out with him?

Special thanks to Mike for the inspiration to write this rant. Mike, you're a silly person for liking The Notebook and I don't think I'm done telling you this.

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