Love stories are a timeless concept. In classical mythology Venus and Cupid are commonly depicted as the God and Goddess of Love, associated with desire, passion, erotic love and attraction.
Since the dawn of man this social construct has passed through millennia, gradually accumulating greater significance until Hollywood seemingly birthed the global clamor for that ‘perfect’ (and largely impossible) relationship, the one where you stare contently into each other’s eyes every night, and where nothing else seems to matter. Thanks to the silver screen, these inaccurate clichés have been perpetuated for decades.
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One wonders why they couldn’t just show us a relationship hampered by the husband hogging the bed, snoring too loudly, or squabbles over whose turn it is to take the garbage out. After all, that’s what real ‘true love’ is often all about. The arguments, the compromises, the lack of freedom and, more often than not, the inevitable heartbreak… maybe love is overrated.
There have been a gazillion cringe-inducing, formulaic, predictable and cheesy romance films. Yet, this fact still doesn’t make it any less depressing for anyone who may be single. Fear not, singletons, Valentine’s Day isn’t a day to be contemplating your shortcomings; it’s not you, it’s them! You might be the sensible ones. Let’s take a look at the movies which remind us how love is not necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be…
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The Squid and the Whale
Noah Baumbach? A film on divorce? Déjà vu? The 2005 film The Squid and the Whale was actually inspired by the director’s experience of his parents’ divorce during his adolescence. Set against a 1986 Manhattan backdrop, The Squid and the Whale details the breakup of a seemingly idealized nuclear family. After tensions between self-obsessed father Bernard and unfaithful mother Joan Berkman (played by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, respectively) turn into bitter resentment, they are left to break the news of their separation to their two sons. Consequently, this leads to a division in the family, with son Walt (Owen Kline) siding with his father, and Frank (Jesse Eisenberg) favoring his mother. The Squid and the Whale is filled to the brim with charm and comedic subtleties, something to be expected from one of Wes Anderson’s former collaborators.
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(500) Days of Summer
As narrator Richard McGonagle aptly puts it, “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.” In (500) Days of Summer, failed architect Tom (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a greetings card writer and is a firm believer in true love. When new recruit, Summer, very much a non-believer in true love, joins the company, Tom’s mundane, boring life is swiftly turned on its head. The pair quickly become an item (almost), though Summer is persistently reluctant to label them as a couple. Marc Webb’s feature film jumps back and forth between the good and bad periods of Tom and Summer’s turbulent relationship, from the early days of courtship, to the latter of bitter indignation, confusion and desperation. Perhaps this film is best served as a lesson in how love works, or doesn’t work, in mysterious ways.
A Star is Born
Which version? All of them, essentially; the plot remains the same in all four films, from 1937 through to 2018. However, make no mistake, Bradley Cooper’s critically acclaimed take on the movie is arguably the best of the lot. Cooper stars as troubled musician Jackson Maine, whose battle with alcoholism launches him into a downward spiral. Lady Gaga plays Ally, an unknown, working as a waitress and singer. A blossoming relationship between the pair ensues, and eventually sees Ally realizing her dreams as an artist, while Jackson falls deeper and deeper into an alcohol-induced depression. The Guardian encapsulate the films sentiments perfectly, calling it an “outrageously watchable and colossally enjoyable new version, supercharged with dilithium crystals of pure melodrama”.
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