I watched The Notebook. I watched it alone, sitting in my room, in order to help out a friend who was writing a review of the movie. And guess what? I liked it.
I'm not obsessed with the film. In fact, I took note of many instances in the movie that seemed cheesy or cliche. But I still enjoyed the method of storytelling. Despite the reported lack of chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams on set, I believed that their characters were actually in love. Usually when I hear about guys going to see The Notebook, it's because their girlfriend or wife "made" them. Well, I'm a single young adult male, and I watched it in a room alone.
There's a common misconception in the world of film where guys don't watch romantic movies like The Notebook without it being forced upon them and women don't watch action movies like Die Hard without the influence of machismo. I mean there's a reason that romantic movies are commonly called "chick flicks" right? But we're (supposedly) a mature society — we should know that's simply not true. They are both enjoyable genres, and I've known plenty of guys and gals that enjoy either — or none.
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Many of my favorite movies are the hardcore action, violence, and vulgarity-filled films like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club. But that being said, my favorite movie of all time — that I've loved since I was a kid — is a love story. In fact, some people might say that The Princess Bride is one of the best love stories of all time.
Sure, The Princess Bride is full of swashbuckling, adventure, Sicilian battles of wit, and giant rodents-of-unusual-sizes, but at its core, it's about love. It's about a man who gets lost at sea and spends every waking moment trying to reunite with his true love.
Just because I've never really put effort into finding a relationship doesn't mean that I'm not fascinated with the concept of love. Not the "I'm hot and you're hot so we should probably start dating" kind of love. I'm talking about the spontaneous, open, and vulnerable kind of love that makes the heart melt.
Equal Parts Love And Pain
Movies usually paint love in two different lights. Love is either the best thing in the world and people live their entire lives in happiness or love is nothing but constant pain that fills people with pain and agony just as much as it fills them with bliss. Some of the best romance movies — and likely the best real-life romances — are the ones that mix both.
Take Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy for instance. The movie is filled with its share of highs and lows. One second they're madly in love with each other and the next they're screaming at each other, trying to work out differences that they just can't overcome. The back-and-forth dynamic of the entire movie is what draws us in as an audience. We want to see them happy, and each argument they have breaks our heart and gets us even more emotionally invested in the film.
Another good example of that kind of romance movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play ex-lovers who seek out a procedure that will make them forget about each other. Through flashback sequences, we see them living happily together, but even a love as intense as theirs had to come to an end, and they simply wanted to forget the pain. And by the time they realize they, in fact, never want to forget each other, it's too late. You can almost hear your heart snap.
Time's Running Out
But not everyone can get into the movies that are made to break your heart. Some people want a happier tale of two young lovers who find complete happiness in each other. However, in order to make a good story, you need something to work against them. The theme in many romance movies, including Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, is time.
In Before Sunrise, a young man named Jesse meets a French woman named Celine on a train ride in Europe. In an act of spontaneity, Jesse suggests that they spend the night together in Vienna. Celine reluctantly agrees, and thus begins a romantic journey over the course of one night.
There is something very real about the interactions between these two characters. The dialogue is all very genuine, and it feels like you're actually watching two real strangers get to know each other over the course of a single night. By the time sunrise finally comes, you feel sad to see them part ways.
Rise Of The Rom-Com
Many of the romance movies that you see now are romantic comedies. As much as I love a good comedy, most of the rom-coms I've seen have little to do with actual romance. Knocked Up has some funny moments, Trainwreck has next to no real romance at all, and as much as I enjoy Love Actually, many of the couples in that movie aren't the best role models for a healthy relationship.
The romantic comedies that have always appealed to me were films like While You Were Sleeping, in which Sandra Bullock plays a lonely woman who fantasizes about a man at a train station. When that man suffers an accident on the tracks, Bullock saves him. At the hospital, the man is in the coma, and Bullock verbally daydreams about being his fiance. When a nurse overhears her, she tells the man's family, and Bullock creates a web of lies that the family believes.
The movie is a heartfelt comedy where the man's family welcomes her warmly. We get to bee Bullock and the family come together, and even though Bullock is lying about being the man's fiance, we see her joy of finally being a part of a family. She grows to love them, they grow to love her, and she finds herself not falling in love with the comatose man, but his brother instead.
I love the movie because it promotes more than just love at first sight. She was obsessed with the man because he was handsome, well-dressed, and successful. But after getting to know his brother, she finds herself thoroughly in love. Love at first sight may be romantic, but watching the journey of one person slowly falling in love with another is such a gratifying feeling.
Love stories aren't just for girls or guys with girlfriends. Anyone can enjoy romance if you simply find the right kind. You don't need to have explosions or nudity to keep a guy's attention when watching a movie. Just make it real. Make the dialogue pure. Make us believe that the two actors on the screen were a real-life couple plucked off the screen. Keep making movies like The Princess Bride and Before Sunrise and hopefully one day romance will become universally loved.