Like many movie addicts, I’ve seen my share of trite Hollywood romantic comedies and dramas. The main problem with the lot of them is, no matter their promise, they all begin and end the same. Their plot lines run like a bad date: cliched, boring conversation; no element of surprise or anticpation; lukewarm sparks. If you’ve seen enough of them, they’re downright unwatchable. So what’s a weary film lover to do? Seek out an Indie, Foreign title, or a Classic! The writing is tighter and more clever, the actors earthier and even more unusual, real. No plastic fantastic here, just a good story, a talented cast, and something more to chew on that popcorn.
1. Love Me If You Dare – It all begins with a brightly colored candy dish and two very naughty minded children, Julien and Sophie. They devise a game: whoever possesses the candy dish dares the other to thrilling and destructive acts of one upmanship. Throw in chaotic childhoods, an intense bond of friendship, and budding infatuation that evolves into l’amour fou. The twisted game soon serves as a frame for their romance and mutual loathing. This French film (Jeux D’Enfants or Child’s Play) is dark and wildly colorful, and Marillon Cotillard, pre Edith Piaf fame, is delightful. If you liked Amelie, rent this.
2. Dear Frankie – When nine-year old Frankie discovers his father’s ship is sailing into port, he’s delighted to finally meet the man. Problem is, every time Frankie received a letter from his father, describing far-flung adventures and an extended time at sea, his mother, Lizzie, had been the one responding. Desperate not to disappoint Frankie with the truth, as they are actually on the run from his father, Lizzie hires a stranger to pretend to be his long lost dad for the day. A sweet Scottish film about family and the power of love.
3. The Quiet Man – The original cowboy, John Wayne, and the charmingly sassy Maureen O’Hara make this film from 1952 a classic gem. Set in 1930’s Ireland, Sean Thorton, an Irish American boxer moves back home to claim his family farm. He falls for the fiery Mary Kate, sister to the town bully, Will Danaher. When a dispute arises with Will and Thorton refuses to confront the problem, Mary Kate pronounces Thorton a coward and a battle of wills ensues. The setting is lush, the romance is fiery. A must see.
4. The Deer Hunter – At its heart, the story’s about four friends from small town industrial Pennsylvania who go off to fight in the Vietnam War. It’s one part psychological drama, one part action, and one part romance, equalling one helluva movie! The first hour of the movie is pure characterization – something movie goers rarely seen anymore. As a result, the behavior of the characters is profound. When war and love brings out their worst traits, you’ll feel like you really understand them.
Robert DeNiro is amazing as Michael, the quiet, restrained hero. And there’s so much tension between he and Linda, Meryl Streep’s character, that it jumps of the screen. The deft acting by Christopher Walken adds to the brilliant cast. This rare, epic treat will touch and horrify you. Even if you’re not normally drawn to violent movies, give it a try. It’s so much more than just a film about war (and makes a great date-night movie as it satisfies both).
That’s it for now. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!
Georgian Word of the Day: French Letter
A safety sheath. Also known as a cundum (1665-1820), a dried gut of sheep worn by men during intercourse, said to be created by one Colonel Cundum. French Letter is the less vulgar of the two.