by: Stephanie Hoover
For those who don’t know my exit option is a directed reading where I watch 25+ movies and read 25+ books, articles, and essays. I am finally at the point where I am watching three of my very favorite movies, which I now must urge you all to watch as well.
Closer (2004) is my all-time favorite film. As Anna (Julia Roberts) says about Dan’s (Jude Law) book, “It’s accurate…about sex…love.” That is why I love this film. I think it’s the most accurate and honest portrayal of love I’ve ever seen. Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco are also fans as they’ve referenced or used lines from the film in their songs/song titles. The film is about two couples, essentially Alice (Natalie Portman) and Dan (Jude Law), and Anna (Julia Roberts) and Larry (Clive Owen). In the play-to-film, Dan and Alice meet in an unconventional way leading to being in a relationship. That is, until he meets Anna and falls for her. Unfortunately, Dan cannot bring himself to leave Alice, merely, and blatantly honestly, due to not wanting anyone else to get their hands on her. The brutal deception in this film continues as Dan pretends to be Anna and has cybersex with Larry, then asking him to meet “her.” Unfortunately for Dan, Anna and Larry end up dating because of this attempt at embarrassing both of them. Alice and Larry meet at Anna’s photography exhibit where Alice’s sexualized existence is seen as both a blessing and a curse for her. But this also leads to Larry’s interesting critique of Alice in comparison to Anna: “She has the moronic beauty of youth, but she’s sly.” Anna and Dan ultimately have an affair which leads to some of the best dialogue and honest quotes regarding the deception of an affair I’ve ever seen. However, despite Alice’s disappearance and Larry’s misery, Anna and Dan don’t live happily ever after. Larry matches Dan’s deception to get his (then) wife (Anna) back, but not without planting a seed to completely fuck up Dan and Alice’s potential happy ending. Closer shows that not all that is love is what’s portrayed in a Hollywood romcom.
While it seems like the book-to-film, Silver Linings Playbook (2012), needs less of an introduction, I will still briefly give one. Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) meet at a dinner while they’re both trying to cope with their mental/behavioral issues that emerged from the ending of their marriages. After Tiffany’s husband dies in an accident she copes by sleeping with everyone in her office and having occasional mood swings/outbursts. After Pat finds his wife in the shower with their coworker, he discovers that he is bipolar, with bouts of paranoia brought on by high levels of stress. Aside from the major narrative, Pat’s parents also have minor behavioral issues and Pat’s best friend finds he’s struggling with the pressures of giving his wife and daughter everything they want. Much like Closer, Silver Linings Playbook is a smart and well written film that looks at love and relationships in a darker light from the traditional romcom genre. Tiffany fights against the stereotype of perfection by loving herself even when she’s downright dirty. She confronts Pat specifically about what he and other people think of her: “I was a big slut, but I’m not anymore. There will always be a part of me that is sloppy and dirty, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you capable of that?” Pat and Tiffany also have a short, blunt, and accurate exchange about their downfalls when Pat says to Tiffany, “You have poor social skills. You have a problem” and she replies, “I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.” Granted, it does end happily with Pat and Tiffany finding their “silver lining,” but SLP gives a new narrative about love while confronting the taboo of mental illness. Also, it shows that while you may think you know what you want or what love is, there’s always the chance to learn something new and find something different than what you’d expected.
This brings me to the very divergent Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006). Oh why, oh why didn’t I write this film? The previous short-story graphic novel Pizzeria Kamikazie became what Wiki calls an “American black comedy romance road movie.” After Zia (Patrick Fugit) commits suicide he finds himself in a purgatory that is essentially a slightly more depressing state of the world that he’d left. Zia runs into a former acquaintance who informs him his ex-girlfriend is also there, as she committed suicide as well. Zia and his new friend Eugene (Shea Whigham) go on a road trip to find his ex, Desiree (Leslie Bibb), where they end up picking up a hitchhiker, Mikal (Shannyn Sossaman), who’s looking for the People In Charge (P.I.C.) so she can go home because her suicide was a mistake. Like most road trip movies there are montages, good times, bickering, and resolutions riddled with obstacles along the way. The overarching message can easily be read as “you can find love anywhere” or “you may think you know what you want, but you may not.” Nonetheless, Wristcutters begins at everyone’s end where the audience not only is given the backstory to many people’s deaths, but gives a look at what happens after. While Zia spends most of the film trying to find Desiree, much like Pat in Silver Linings Playbook trying to win back his wife, Zia finds someone he’s more compatible and happier with along the journey. In Wristcutters there is no smiling, there are miracles, stay away from the beach, and for the love of god watch out for the blackhole underneath the passenger seat! Oh, and I hope you like Eugene’s band, because that’s the only tape they have left. Enjoy your shows!