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My Funky Valentines: The 7 Most Twisted Movie Romances

February 14, 2012

Anybody who’s read my blog knows I’m just not that into traditional movie romances (hence my vow not to see The Vow). I will admit to having soft spots for a few, like The Notebook—let me just say, ladies: Ryan Gosling? I get it, and you can’t beat James Garner and Gena Rowlands either—and Dirty Dancing, which I stumbled into on a rainy August 1987 afternoon and, yes, had the time of my life. And almost anything with Cary Grant, from The Philadelphia Story to North by Northwest, is guaranteed to set my heart a-flutter. But I prefer more, shall we say, unorthodox love stories, so here are a few Valentines for my faves.

Harold and Maude (1971) He (Bud Cort) is a suicidal 20-year-old. She (Ruth Gordon) is a free-spirited 79-year-old. Naturally, they fall in love. Although critics didn’t get it upon its release—Variety said it “has all the fun and gaiety of a burning orphanage”—cult audiences embraced it, thanks to Hal Ashby’s movingly askew direction and the heart-stirring soundtrack by Cat Stevens. The original candidate to score the film (and allegedly Ashby’s first choice to play Harold) was Elton John. That would’ve been really twisted.

Double Indemnity (1944)/Body Heat (1981) Sometimes love makes you do crazy things—like murder a femme fatale’s husband. Barbara Stanwyck made Fred MacMurray(!) do it in Billy Wilder’s seminal film noir, and Kathleen Turner drove William Hurt over the brink in Lawrence Kasdan’s unofficial remake. The fact that Stanwyck went on to play the manly matriarch on The Big Valley and Turner morphed into Chandler’s father on Friends only makes these films more disturbing.

Star 80 (1983) Sometimes love makes you do really crazy things—like slay your Playmate of the Year wife, then kill yourself. Mariel Hemingway (who underwent breast enlargement to embody Dorothy Stratten) and Eric Roberts bring new meaning to committing in writer-director Bob Fosse’s jazz-hands-free American tragedy. I’m guessing it’s not on Peter Bogdanovich’s or Hugh Hefner’s V-Day playlists.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) Tale as old as time… or textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome? A monstrous creature holds a young hottie hostage until she ultimately capitulates and falls in love with him, with the help of a talking teapot, cup, clock and candelabra. This isn’t a Disney cartoon; it’s a bad acid trip. I’d go see it in 3D, but I’m afraid my mind would get permanently blown.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Matters of the heart inspire another hostage situation as Al Pacino’s Sonny holds up a bank to finance a sex-change operation for his beloved Leon (Chris Sarandon). But the movie’s true bromance is between Sonny and his partner in crime, Sal (John Cazale), in a relationship that mirrored Pacino and Cazale’s real-life bond. Just watch the tenderness between them in this scene from Sidney Lumet’s deeply humane dramedy.

Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder’s cross-dressing farce is anything but a drag, especially in its final scene, when Jack Lemmon’s wig-wearing Jerry tries to convince millionaire Joe E. Brown they can’t get married. “I’m not a natural blonde.” “Doesn’t matter.” “I smoke all the time!” “I don’t care.” “For three years now, I’ve been living with a saxophone player.” “I forgive you.” “I can never have children.” “We can adopt some.” “You don’t understand, Osgood—I’m a man!” “Well, nobody’s perfect.”  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

What are your favorite movie romances, twisted or not? Care enough to comment!

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