February 14th, 2017

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What's Romantic?

I may have recovered from the convention weekend. A day of rest and a good night’s sleep, and I feel more or less back to normal.

I suppose I should wish a happy Valentine’s Day, but I’m really not a fan of the holiday. And no, it’s not a bitter single woman thing. I’m just opposed to the idea of romance on demand, that you’ve somehow failed in your relationship if you don’t do something big on this particular day, or that you’ve failed at life if you don’t have someone doing something for you. Or that you have to do something special for yourself. Or that you have to do something to make someone else feel better about not having someone. Basically, it all boils down to “buy something today!” and that makes me cynical.

But I’m not opposed to the idea of romance. I’m happily single at the moment and content if I remain this way. I guess I’d be open to romance if I met someone who made my heart flutter, but it’s been a very long time since that happened (I guess I’m very picky, and I seem to be getting pickier with age). I do love fictional love stories, though. And now I’m about to say something rather controversial:

I don’t think The Princess Bride is the best fantasy romance movie. I don’t even think it’s a very good fantasy romance movie. I do think it’s a brilliant film, and is one of my all-time favorites. I just don’t think it’s very romantic. And I’m not sure it’s meant to be. It’s a satire. The book is rather cynical about the romance aspect, even suggesting at the end that the relationship isn’t likely to last. Really, Westley and Buttercup hardly spend any time together during the movie, and we have zero sense of what their relationship is like. The actual “love story” part of the movie happens during that prologue montage of “as you wish,” which obviously leaves a lot of it out. The bulk of the movie is about Westley trying to get back to her while she sits around passively. That gives you the sense that they probably aren’t very suited to each other. Once he starts spending time with her, he’s probably going to be very bored with her. He could do so much better.

So, what do I think is the best fantasy romance movie? My vote goes for Stardust, the adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel. It really is a romance, fitting the structure of the genre. We have the couple that starts out with opposing goals and not being very interested in each other, but then as they face danger together and get to know each other, they start developing feelings, and then they grow as people to be able to be in love with each other and realize that it’s love. They spend almost the entire movie with each other, so we see what their relationship looks like. We see their feelings develop. And there are grand moments of romance and adventure along the way, with swashbuckling, flying pirate ships, desperate chases, secret identities, and all that, plus the kind of happy ending that leaves you with a big sigh. I watch this movie over and over again and it makes me happy every time.

I think an honorable mention might be Ladyhawke, though it’s hampered horribly by one of the most ill-fitting soundtracks ever (supposedly, it had a more traditional score in the European release, and I desperately want them to release that on DVD) that makes it really hard to watch, and then there’s Matthew Broderick’s attempt at whatever accent he was attempting. This one also loses some romance points due to the fact that the lovers can never actually share scenes with each other, due to the plot (they’re under a curse that leaves her as a falcon by day and him as a wolf by night, so they can’t be together in human form), but they do find ways of conveying their love.

Hmm, a common thread seems to be Michelle Pfeiffer — she’s the heroine in Ladyhawke and the villain in Stardust.

Otherwise, we kind of have to go into animated films. I’m partial to Tangled for romance purposes because there’s no creepy Stockholm Syndrome going on and the characters actually spend time together before falling in love.

Another honorable mention in its own category might be the season 3 finale of the TV series Once Upon a Time, which sent two of the characters, who’d been flirting a bit but who hadn’t yet become openly romantic, back in time to the fairy tale world, where they had to play Back to the Future and set things right and find a way back home, and doing all that allowed them to grow closer together and admit their feelings. They’ve botched a lot in that show, but that 2-part episode works. Also, someone needs to cast Colin O’Donoghue as a romantic leading man in something, and please let him use his real Irish accent. His “leading man” big-screen role so far was as a Father What a Waste with an American accent, and while he held his own quite well playing opposite Anthony Hopkins, the charm was utterly wasted in a psychological horror movie.