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Alexandra Lange

Romance Is Dead


There are some movies so bad I can’t bear to put them in my Netflix queue. Somehow sharing with the world (or at least with Mark) that I can’t resist a movie with terrible reviews, terrible actors and terrible writing that I know will just make me mad, is too much to bear. That’s why Time Warner invented Channel 1000, where you can pay more (but instantly and anonymously) for your bad taste. Saturday night, I could not resist the lure of He’s Just Not That Into You. And indeed, it is usually contemporary romantic comedies that tempt me. I want to be charmed by the latest dark-haired and generic hero. I want to be wowed by the heroine’s shiny shiny hair and cute clothes. I want to feel the slightest bit of tension in anticipation of the final kiss — in the rain, in the snow, in unflattering underpants.

HJNTIY was even worse than I expected, mostly because there weren’t any good clothes, and no happy endings. Maybe Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck will stay together, but really, they are too famous to be in such a movie. I can’t remember their characters’ names, he seemed to be wearing his own flannel shirt wardrobe and she seemed to be wearing Rachel’s pantsuits from Friends. This was a movie that truly didn’t care to fulfil the expectations, however silly, of the 20-and 30-something women that were its intended audience. It was really just as depressing as real life and slightly more humiliating for the actresses.

As we were watching Mark asked me, “What was the last romantic comedy you liked?” and I could not remember. Sweet Home Alabama was squirm-worthy. Serendipity wasted John Cusack. I don’t stoop as low as Kate Hudson vehicles. My Best Friend’s Wedding? Humiliating and unsatisfying, though Cameron Diaz was so great before she started trying so hard (five minutes of What Happened in Vegas made me tired). I think I have to reach back as far as Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary and realize it is not a fluke, the British do it better. For the past eight to ten years the hole in my heart for a little onscreen romance has largely been filled by Jane Austen movies, and the derivatives thereof. Even those can be a little ambiguous. Sometimes the heroine feels like second choice (Mansfield Park), or seems to be settling for less (Sense & Sensibility). That may be what happens in real life, but some nights you just want eye candy.



Posted in: Film + Video

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Alexandra Lange Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.

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