Julia Smith dusts down her favourite romantic comedies and reveals why they’re the ultimate guilty pleasure.
“Now let’s just get one thing straight - I may be a girl but I bet I know more about film than you arrogant (insert expletive)” is what I commonly yell at people when I make the mistake of being drunk and having slightly bad taste in films at the same time. Unlike most people I know, I do really feel the effects of ‘film taste embarrassment’. I know people who honestly love Steven Segal films, I have a friend who actually bought The Big Hit, and I do know women who cite Pretty Woman as their favourite film. I’ve always admired this sensibility in them, and think that I can be the same, and I can… almost. In my pre-university life, I watched a lot of rom-coms, I loved them, they justified themselves in making me feel better, because frankly, I felt terrible. When I went on to my life of further education in film, I sort of grew out of them (actually they’ve kind of dropped in quality over the past couple of years, it must be said) and grew into Classical Hollywood and American New Wave, but anyone who says they love Soviet Montage is clearly smoking the right substance while they’re watching it. Anyway, in this time, my film knowledge grew and, what can I say, I started to notice boys. Unfortunately, these boys were years older than me and vastly more informed on film than I was. And so I spent the next five years of my life pretending that I could be a girl and be completely immune to the effects of Richard Curtis and Nora Ephron.
Unfortunately, my plan of ‘not mentioning Nora Ephron’ didn’t quite pan out. I would get into heated debates with men about why rom-coms should be respected for their potential, or why if you were a woman who liked action films this did not automatically suggest you were a lesbian (yes, there are men who think this). Most importantly, I wanted to make the point that it doesn’t matter what film you love, you should be allowed to without anyone questioning your intelligence. The great problem with my arguments is that it didn’t matter that I knew who Dziga Vertov was, that I spent the day studying French New Wave or that I thought Citizen Kane was pretty spectacular (cinematically speaking). As soon as I uttered the words, “you know, I quite like While You Were Sleeping”, I was dead in the water. I thought that this would change in time, until the day my new housemate suggested I go see Wimbledon because it was probably my kind of film. He had just started the third year of the degree film course I had done and I had just finished my masters, and it was presumed that my film taste hadn’t graduated past teenage girl. I was mad, I fumed, but at the end of the day I thought, to hell with it, if Wimbledon is gonna entertain me more than A Bout De Souffle, then so be it. (disclaimer: I would never rank Wimbledon above A Bout De Souffle).
And so let me begin the perilous list of films I have tried to conceal for many years now, and unfortunately every single last one of them is a rom-com…
Crossroads – If you haven’t seen it, you can’t judge it. A friend got me into the whole Britney Spears fandom thing, I don’t know how exactly. But she convinced me to come to the cinema to see Crossroads. And what can I say; I’ve never seen such a depressing teen flick in my life. I wanted singing Britney, not the whole cast in tears. But nonetheless it related to something I felt at the time. I then bought it when it came out on DVD and although I haven’t watched it much since, it does offer me some sort of solace for the memory of that time in my life.
A Cinderella Story – A little while after the ‘Wimbledon incident,’ I was working at a DVD store, and there were literally hundreds of women and young girls asking for this film - A Cinderella Story. The women would keep telling us how great it was. In the end, the idea of seeing Chad Michael Murray was too much for me. So I rented it and watched it, and watched it, and watched it…and bought it. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was the most ‘feel good’ film I had ever watched. I was in a job I hated, with a boss I loathed, but that film just made it all seem quite pointless. I think this is the most effective ‘feel good’ film I’ve ever seen. This film also spurred a fascination with Hilary Duff films - yes I have seen Raise Your Voice, The Perfect Man…
Simply Irresistible – Another Cinderella story done with a contemporary twist. This film has some dodgy editing and a little problem with continuity, but it’s fantastic. I first saw the advert for it on some rental video, but it was never released. I ended up taping it when it premiered it on Sky, and have almost burnt the video to a crisp. There is something very simple and sweet about this film. The girl cooks, there’s flying, there’s vanilla plants, and there’s a magical crab… What else could you possibly ask for?
Return To Me – I think it was another food-meets-romance thing with this film. It was just such good casting, everyone is interesting, the story is interesting and James Belushi is so good in it. Plus there’s a gorilla, some ravioli and some schlock about how Bob’s widow’s heart was always meant to be with him, which I think is not only trite but illogical. It doesn’t matter though; there are old men playing cards and some painting going on, so everyone is happy in the end.
Serendipity – I’m not sure how much I love this film but I know lots of people hate it. I think the thing that pulls me in is framing the entire film around the book, Love in the Time of Cholera. The book isn’t what the film is based on (although, it actually could be), but it does play an important part. And when a film features one of my favourite books, along with New York, John Cusack and the whole idea of destiny and chaos, how could I not like it? And there’s some awesome music by Nick Drake thrown in for good luck.
The Honest Courtesan (Dangerous Beauty) – I haven’t seen this film in years. They’ve changed the original UK title now, so it is known as Dangerous Beauty throughout the world. It’s not really mentioned as far as the history of movies go. But for god’s sake, it’s a woman training to be the perfect lover just so she can get closer to the man she can’t have. It’s just all forbidden and sexy and good.
You’ve Got Mail – This film was based on The Shop Around The Corner, which may be one of my most favourite films ever. And although You’ve Got Mail is only half as good… it’s a good half. It’s New York, it’s autumn, there’s books, there’s the internet, there’s a whole Pride and Prejudice love-hate relationship going on. Yes, Meg Ryan looks weirdly young and Tom Hanks looks weirdly fat… but I love it anyway,
While You Were Sleeping - I am, unfortunately, a fan of Sandra Bullock. I just can’t help myself. There’s something nice and pleasing about her, which you don’t get with Julia Roberts. I always want to punch Julia Roberts. But I do really love this movie, it’s all about being lonely and then having one hoopla of a Hollywood ending.
One Fine Day – I don’t actually know anyone who hates this movie so maybe this shouldn’t be in the list. But I think it should, simply because people don’t publicly sing its praises. My parents call this film the ‘Best Rainy Day Film’, my friend calls it the ‘Best Feel Good Film’ and I once had a friend who said it was the only film she’s ever related to. Despite the unlikeliness of the storyline in One Fine Day, there is something strikingly real and loveable about it. There are two people, they have problems, she’s having a bad day, and he isn’t. It’s all about what happens when you let other people help you out, and what can go wrong, the whole chaos theory. Plus, it’s set in one day, and it rains, and that’s just nice.
So, you got me sussed. A film, set in New York, in the autumn, bring in some food, at least one book, and spin the story around the chaos theory and that’s pretty much got me hooked. So everyone thinks it’s ‘girlie’ to watch these kind of films. Why can’t it be ‘boyie’ to watch action films? But it isn’t and never will be, it’s always going to be ‘manly’ to watch action films. I shouldn’t really be ashamed of the films I love - these films make me feel good, and they make me happy. Citizen Kane didn’t do that, neither did Casablanca, The Godfather Trilogy or Pierrot Le Fou. I don’t doubt these films are cinematically excellent, but when it comes down to it, are you going to be entertained by them? I’ve always liked to put it simply that everyone should be allowed to like what they like and everyone should respect their choice, because one man’s Citizen Kane is another man’s Batman and Robin.
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