Forget sports movies or survival stories. For me, the most thrilling challenge film characters can face is overcoming their intimacy issues or commitment phobias. When someone levels their gaze, shrugs casually and quips, “I don’t believe in love.” All I can think is: GAME ON! You are about to learn some lessons of the heart, bitch! The second they make such a statement it’s only a matter of time before they’re sobbing, “I was just fine before you came along! You and your hazel eyes!” That’s why I’ve been looking forward to Weekend like it’s the ninth Harry Potter film. At first the trailer seems to indicate a solid, indie romance, but then—the declaration: “I don’t do boyfriends.” Ooooh, you’re so mysterious and un-gettable! If you too are struggling with the plague of chronic too-cool-for-schoolness, you are not alone. Well, you are, but not for long. Check out the following five films featuring the aloof, burned or simply uninterested. Their journeys may be varied, and their reasons may be solid, but sooner or later it’s bound to get mushy.
Hugh Grant doesn’t get nearly enough credit. As a performer, he’s given us everything from the sweet, shy guy in the rumpled suit to the wily scoundrel, half in the bag. True, the details of his actual life may be slightly less adorable. But personally, I think he earned that hooker scandal for all the bumbling declarations of love he made to weepy and/or corseted ladies in his early career. With About a Boy, he found the happy medium between saccharine and slimy, as a contentedly isolated womanizer who gets his ass handed to him by both a pre-teen and a woman of substance. By the end of the film he discovers that there might be more to life than just a series of anonymous nipples. It seems Hugh might have taken this lesson to heart as well: it’s been years since I’ve seen a shot of him leaning into a bevy of underage spray tan. If he keeps this up, I think his legacy will be that love is possible, on screen or off, even if you’re kind of a d-bag.
But you have to love the good kind of d-bag. Guys who force women into unwanted, illegal abortions don’t typically wind up in musical numbers at the end of the story. The lesson here is that there’s no such thing as no strings attached—Alfie is like the flip side to this recent spate of friends-who-do-it comedies. It’s a flip side that includes broken homes, broken hearts and the rampant spread of venereal diseases. Don’t be fooled by this cutesy photo. I just couldn’t find a snazzy publicity shot of him slapping the crap out of an ex-girlfriend or throwing another one out in the street—which is basically the whole movie (with a catchy Cher theme song). So, it’s kind of a relief when Alfie finally learns his lesson, alone on a bridge, knowing the woman he loves would gladly toss him over it rather than take him back.
I love this film but the title is baloney. The rightful one would be Singles Right Now but Who Are We Kidding? When it’s a Cameron Crowe film no one is getting out un-soulmated. That said, these characters sure make a valiant effort. Between Kyra Sedgwick refusing so much as glass of water from Campbell Scott, and Bridget Fonda pining after the guy an 8th grader would dump, everyone seems to be gunning for a life of loneliness. True, it would be a vaguely precious, well-scored loneliness, with plenty of Pearl Jam and breaking of the fourth wall. But by the laws of cinema, Cameron Crowe-grade loneliness expires somewhere around age thirty-four; after that it’s a slippery slope into Bergman territory. Luckily, in this case, everyone gets it together and falls in love right on time. Just like in real life!
If I may quote Emily Post: “If a suitor arrives at an awkward moment, bearing popsicles and DVDs, the genteel response is something along the lines of a gracious excuse. A lady never shouts, ‘Get out of here, I’m masturbating!’ And certainly not while brandishing knives.” Despite this faux pas, Marianna Palka’s debut film turns into a sweet, strange love story between two clinically awkward twentysomethings. Just think: if this chick can start a relationship with that kind of attitude and still wind up happily ever after, so can you! Still, I still wouldn’t test this one out. Don’t come crying to me if it lands you a New York Post headline instead of a date.
No one said you had to jump into the fast lane right away. Like self-help books and training bras, there are certain devices we sometimes require to usher us into maturity. This is just a very expensive and unsettling version. Yet Ryan Gosling manages to turn something infinitely creepy into something true and heartwarming, using the alchemical powers of his charm. But again, I’d like to remind you that you’re still not Ryan Gosling (unless you are Ryan Gosling, in which case, did you uh, see column #7? Oh, did your email bounce back? I’ve had some problems with my spam folder and also my phone has been eating my texts and I just wanted to make sure you’re not thinking I’m not responding you because I’m not. I’m not not. Hahahahahaha! So, so like, how’ve you been?).