Nicholas Sparks, romance author, recently chose his five most romantic films for "Entertainment Weekly." His choices correspond with a list of my own called "Chrissi's Five Most Repugnant Films." The only film I don't hate from his list is "Casablanca," although not because I found the movie romantic. I saw that film years ago, very surprised at how many lines from it had seeped into our popular culture. I sat by myself in the crowded "Revue" theater, trying to be serious, when suddenly I heard: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," which I'd only ever known previously as a sample from a song by one of my favorite '80's bands, "Big Audio Dynamite." If that wasn't enough, there were also lines like: "Here's looking at you, kid," a variation of "Play It Again, Sam," and "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," all of which I'd originally heard as a kid spoken by a very popular character named "Bugs Bunny!" So I do like that movie, but mostly due to its unintentional entertainment factor.
Now, here is my rundown of why I hate his other four picks:
1. "Ghost" I found it depressing and frightening. There's nothing romantic about one half of a couple dying. And now I hear there is a Broadway musical of it coming out. Oh, the torture!
2. "Titanic" I had similar feelings for "Titanic" (with the added bonus of seeing blue people floating in the water at the end of the movie), but my biggest complaint is calling this movie a "love story" when it really is a "lust story." Rich society girls don't fall in love with poor guys, but they just might have a lustful fling on a sinking ship. That, I'll buy.
3. "Dirty Dancing" The female lead's name is "Baby" because she's supposed to be so innocent, but about halfway through the film, she is naked and in bed with Patrick Swayze. Turns out there's nothing innocent about "Baby" after all.
4. "Pretty Woman" Absolutely, hands down, the worst of the bunch! It's scary that people have nicknamed this movie "A Cinderella Story." This is not a movie for young girls to one day emulate, particularly because of what's obvious to me but apparently not to others -- that the female lead (played by Julia Roberts) is a working prostitute! Worse still, the movie dances around this issue by having Julia Roberts spill her guts about her seedy past to her "Prince Charming" (a/k/a "Paying John") without ever actually admitting that she does indeed have sex with men for money! Watch the movie closely and you'll notice this. I remember sitting in the theater that day waiting and waiting....
One movie I do find romantic is a movie based on one of Sparks' own novels called "The Notebook." I hated it at first for the same reason I hated "Titanic" -- rich girls know to go for rich guys, they don't go for poor ones. Initially, I had only seen the two leads as a young couple, but one night, I saw the movie on TV in its entirety. The scenes of the now-old couple really got to me. My husband found me crying in my recliner, and I tried to explain to him what I'd just seen: "He didn't need to be in a nursing home. But he went there to be with her," and "She wrote the book he's reading to her because she knew she was getting Alzheimer's, and she wanted to remember their relationship." I was barely audible. Now, I was truly moved by all of the movie because I knew I was seeing a real love story.
I don't buy that whole "love at first sight" thing. "Lust at first sight," yes, but true love is what comes over time when a couple live together on a daily basis, some days are ordinary, others extraordinary, but that's the kind of love I believe in.
Who knows? Maybe I'm wrong, and the leads in "Dirty Dancing" and "Pretty Woman" would have stood the test of time. Maybe Ingrid Bergman did not get on that plane and instead wound up staying with Humphrey Bogart. I'd watch the film one more time to really see how their characters interact to make my final judgment, yet I'm not confident I'd be able to see that movie again without constantly being reminded of Bugs Bunny!