Volume 90, Issue 80

Friday, February 14, 1997

Show Pony


Some kind of wonderful romance

Movie goers don't have to wait for Valentine's Day to find some kind of romance playing on the big screen. Presently, people can leaf through a garden variety of films – The English Patient, Jerry Maguire and Fools Rush In – that make us weep like crazy, howl with laughter and leave males and females coming out "with a glow," Ty Burr, video reviewer of Entertainment Weekly magazine, says.

What makes a great romantic movie you might ask? Peter Howell, Toronto Star film critic, says that a great romantic movie is the kind "that [has] something happen midway, a disagreement, something that separates them." Which forces the audience to want them to get back together, Howell explains.

This sounds suspiciously formulaic and Howell admits it is, but it works when the characters are authentic. "They just have to be believable," he says.

Janina Falkowska, a film professor at Western, explains that old films "were presented in a classical way with many well-known conventions, with the woman being swept off her feet by a big strong man."

She cites as an example Douglas Sirk's film Written on the Wind. The film featured a brave and strong Rock Hudson sweeping Lauren Bacall off her feet. Falkowska admits there is a formula. In classical films there is an uncertainty between the two protagonists, she says.

Global Television entertainment reporter Bob McAdorey explains that for a great romantic film, "there has to be unrequited and unresolved love. It can't just be boy meets girl and they fall in love." Burr adds that there has to be "a believable relationship that a man and woman can aspire to." Burr elaborates that a romantic movie is actually an allegory for a relationship.

For most people it's the characters they love. Howell cites examples such as great old pairs Hepburn and Tracy and Bogie and Bergman. To that mix Burr adds not only Hepburn and Tracy but Hepburn and Cary Grant. Burr felt the latter duo was a much better pair and he cites their film Bringing up Baby as one of his all-time favourites. "Men tend to appreciate Bringing up Baby more and women prefer Philadelphia Story," he adds.

How about modern pairs? Howell says Pfeiffer and Clooney – Michelle and George, to be exact – in the romantic comedy One Fine Day. It's a film Howell says was overlooked. "From the trailer people really thought that the Clooney character was a boor."

Burr says you can't look to any classical couples. "The classical romantic couple has really gone the way of the studio system." He says there are pairs that work well together, for example Renee Zelwegger and Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. "There's a believability there that takes the edge off his Hollywood poster boy image."

Howell also likes the recent pairing of Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient. "There was real blood there," he says.

Howell emphasizes the need for smartness and feasibility in the story. He cites the example of a totally unbelievable pair – John Travolta and Lily Tomlin, who Howell says were paired together as a totally unbelievable couple from a film in the '70s.

Falkowska also commented on some of the refreshing new angles that have been happening in film. In Sabrina the story follows the same conventions of the strong man sweeping the fairy tale princess. "Yet now, Sabrina [which stars Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond] has an inheritance so it is no longer an issue of money. Now it is just a matter of feelings," she explains.

She says Charlie Sheen and Linda Hamilton in The Shadow Conspiracy give "you absolutely no reason to care about them at all."

Falkowska liked the relationship in the recent film Shine. The characters aren't conventionally beautiful people. "She simply shares his life with him; it was a very positive film."

Now that Valentine's Day is upon us again these films will invariably be flying off the shelves in the video stores. Women will likely be doing most of the renting. "Women are just much more into emotion," Howell says. Men, he adds, hide their emotions.

"Women love to cry, men loathe crying. When men go to the movies, they just want to be entertained," Howell says. Let it not be said that men don't go to romantic films though, Jerry Maguire being an example of that. "It was a tough sell," says Michael Skews, Canadian general manager of Columbia Tri-Star. "It starts out with the focus on sports. Then it segues towards a romance. It definitely attracts both of the audiences."

Howell admits his all-time favourite romantic movie is Casablanca. Local radio personalities Rich Greven and Elaine Sawyer of Q97.5 FM concur. "I really like the old ones," Sawyer says. Greven says "films like Love Story, Sleepless in Seattle and The Way we Were are just classics." The disc jockey adds that "they really just don't make them like they used to." Burr would heartily agree – Jerry Maguire and Tin Cup are aberrations. "Hollywood is just too cynical." The reason is the death of the screenplay, according to Burr. "They just don't get into the internals of a relationship anymore," he explains.

Somehow, romances will still be written, produced and released to the public. "Romance is timeless. People crave these types of films – they are affected by it."

To Contact The Features Department: gazfeat@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997