Friday, 4 June 2010

Romantic Movies

Keira Knightley and Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually

I have two favourite slushy, romantic comedy movies (I can't bring myself to write 'romcom'; it just doesn't feel right).

The first is Serendipity, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. Set principally in Manhattan, the film concerns itself with Beckinsale's firm belief in fate and Cusack's intensifying quest – prompted by his impending marriage to someone else – to track down the woman he met briefly, for a single night, but who left him with no details of who she was and where he could find her. To test her belief that, if they were supposed to be together, then, come what may, they would be, Beckinsale's character writes her name in the inside of a book at a stall, and Cusack writes his name on a dollar bill. The test is that if those objects worked their way back into the other's possession, they are meant to be together. The name of the film clearly refers to the fatalistic theme of the story, but also the patisserie on East 60th Street with the same name, where the two characters share ice cream. It's frustrating, and ludicrously far-fetched, but I love it. The fact that it has New York as a backdrop is just a bonus, frankly. It was also an influence on the name we chose for Daughter#1.

The other is the significantly more successful Richard Curtis movie, Love Actually. It's a favourite, not for the over-exposed Hugh Grant-dancing-to-Girls-Aloud scenes; nor for the cringeworthy Bill Nighy / Rab C Nesbitt relationship; nor the crushing effect Alan Rickman's affair has on wife Emma Thompson; nor the ridiculously far-fetched notion that the hapless guy from the BT ads is able to bed not one, not two, but three hot girls in the States; in fact I can't stand most of the characters or the attempts at clever, casually interwoven plot lines.

My love of this film applies solely to the relationship between Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley. Their story, for me, is the only reason to watch this film, and is all the more interesting given that they hardly feature in the plot at all; for me it is perhaps the most moving aspect of the whole film. And it's not because I had a crush on Knightley; her character, yes, but not Knightley herself. Okay, maybe a little, but I'm over it now.

Lincoln is the best friend of a character who gets wed, to Knightley, early on in the film. Throughout the wedding, Lincoln films the proceedings avidly and grimly; we sense some jealousy on his part, and we assume it is directed toward the girl who has stolen his best friend, and possibly the object of his affections, from him.

Later in the film, Knightley arrives at Lincoln's studios unannounced, claiming that he has been ignoring her calls; he is dismissive, casual, and off-handed; she asks to see his wedding video which he tries to prevent her from doing, and it is only when she begins watching the close-up shots of herself that Lincoln has captured on film does she – and we – understand that it is actually Knightley who is the object of his desires.

As a portrayal of unrequited love, I regard it as second to none, particularly in the strained, knowingly hopeless way that Lincoln silently attempts to convey his love for her toward the end of the film.

And it's for those two characters, and these three small segments of this ponderous film, that I regard it as being one of my two favourite romantic comedies of all time. Call me a thwarted romantic or a desperate fool if you will, but you won't change my mind.

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