Category Archives: love

A rom-com I didn’t hate

Yesterday I got to finally see a rom-com movie that I did not hate. (See my previous rant on the subject here.) This was the true tour de force performance “2 Days in Paris” in which Julie Delpy stars, wrote the script, directs, composes, edits, and does a few other random things. Why did I not hate this movie? Glad you asked. Several things come to mind.

  1. It was about an actual, established relationship. There were no plot elements associated with “falling in love” or star-crossed lovers of any sort. It had this in common with the classic Tracy-Hepburn farce “Adam’s Rib“–the whole movie started with a couple in an established relationship and had as it’s plot points the ups and downs in the relationship across a couple of misadventures, in the case of the current film a post-vacation “meet the parents” exercise, and in Adam’s Rib a court trial with the partners defending competing parties.
  2. This Delpy film was actually laugh-out-loud funny, thus fulfilling the “comedy” part to perfection.
  3. This Delpy film was romantic not because of a classic gooey romance bit, but because the couple at hand struggle to work through real relationship issues and at the same time still find something redeeming in the relationship that makes it worth sticking around and fighting it out.
  4. This film kicked in the stomach the usual sorts of silly ways in which Paris the city plays out as romantic, and of course since Delpy is French we see a different Paris than the usual slushy version as viewed with American eyes. The film also gets across the frustration of an American not being able to follow the rapid-fire French conversation.
  5. Delpy’s real life parents play her parents in the film, with her father especially giving a fantastic and interesting performance.

For me, it was a great film. I came out of it feeling optimistic and hopeful. And my crush on Julie Delpy only continues to grow. (I have a well-known tendency to develop asexual crushes on talented people!) I was pretty much enamoured of her after having seen the “Before Sunset” sequel–for which she was nominated for an Oscar for writing–in which she also played the guitar and sang along with writing and acting. This new film is grittier and contains some very Gallic sight-gag humour that might not play well in the US, but overall, from me and the critics alike, two big thumbs up.

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A little dose of humanity

It is no secret to those who know me that I have an extreme soft spot for the elderly. Perhaps it was because I was unbelievably fortunate to have all four of my grandparents live until I was in my mid-twenties, and they have all been significant influences on my life. I think it’s remarkably important but easily ignored that we need to acknowledge older people, to not marginalize them. Many of them had difficult lives, especially those who have been through world wars and the great depression. The modern world is somewhat mystifying to the people who were born in the age of the model T, and they have had to make amazing adjustments just to make it this far.

I know I have been slightly less than enthusiastic about James Lileks’ new blog role on buzz.mn, but the Mpls bridge disaster last week caused me to spend some time on the website trolling for information. And I hit an unexpected and unrelated gem when doing so. Today for a little dose of humanity, perhaps a bit of empathy, appreciation and even admiration for a total stranger (and I don’t mean JL, although the writing is fantastic), I ask you to take the time to read this anecdote about two elderly folks at a grocery store, from Lileks over on the buzz site.

If you have grandparents, elderly parents, widowed or never married distant relatives of any sort, I hope you take the time to tell them how much their sacrifices have been and are appreciated. It’s so easy to get caught up in life, in work, and to spend any available family time looking down the generation tree at the children. But it’s so very important to look up the tree and show a little love to the elders. In my experience, they want nothing from you but some of your time, and the rewards are priceless. On a personal note, I cannot wait to take the big plane across the big pond (17 days and counting!) and sit down and kiss my own nonagenarian grandmother.

A love letter for my sister

I just returned from spending four hours cleaning my first UK apartment in preparation for handing the keys back.  I ache all over and have to go back tomorrow to finish the job.  The UK landlords of that place would clearly benefit from a water softener: the amount of limescale remover I have used, and the amount of limescale remaining, is remarkable!

I only fully lived there for a few months, so it’s not even as bad as it could have been.  When I moved here I needed a place to live, and a furnished apartment was key since it would be months before my own belongings arrived here.  After four months in the original apartment, my belongings arrived and I had them delivered to a new place, one that was partially subsidized by my job such that it was not a disastrous financial burden to carry two apartments for a few months.  But the time has finally come and the lease on the original flat is about to end, and I have had to do the painful and inevitable scrub-down on my own.

Just over one year ago, right before I came over to England to inverview for this job, I was not a happy camper.  The job I had taken after graduate school had seemed like a dream but was in reality more of a nightmare.  I had worked out my one year contract and quit without having another job lined up (although by the time I left I had several options at least potentially on the table, England included).  I was leaving my apartment and storing my worldly goods without knowing where I would end up next or what the future would look like.  In that time of real trial, my sister came to visit and quietly and competently packed and cleaned my apartment while I was running around like a headless chicken.

Scrubbing hard today reminded me of what a selfless act it was, and how much she has taught me about the meaning of the word “love”.  Part of the changes I’ve gone through recently–perhaps best defined as really, finally growing up in the last year since moving here–includes my fully coming to grips with what an amazing thing it was that she did for me and how lucky I have been to have someone in my life that loved me that much.  So to her today, a public declaration of my love in return.   We may drive each other crazy at times, we may not see eye-to-eye on some things, but at the end of the day no one has taught me more about love than my baby sister.

A slightly better US-UK film

I just watched (and not for the first time–what a terrible confession!) a movie, “The Wedding Date” that has a mixed US and UK cast and plot.  Compared with my thoughts about “The Holiday” my overall response to this film is better… as evidenced by the fact that I had seen it before!   The whole film takes place in about 4 days, so the “love story” of the main characters (played by Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney) is a bit weak and subject to my usual rants about Hollywood insta-love, but the side story with the sister and her fiance redeems the movie for me.  They actually come through a messy revelation and triumph through adversity, realizing that their imperfect relationship is “worth fighting for”.  (There’s an in-joke here but I refuse to give more away, see the film if you haven’t!)  The characters on the UK side also include a few of my favorites, including Jack Davenport (from the UK’s “Coupling” and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies)  and Sarah Parish (who I loved in UK exports “Trust” and “The Vice”).  However, the funniest part of the movie from the perspective I have, an American trying to understand the English “stiff upper lip” attitude towards emotions, is this:

when the sister’s fiance has just found out about his fiancee’s dirty secret and he is sitting in the car with the romantic lead (Dermot), and all he can think of to say is, “I trust you’ve enjoyed your trip to England.” 

I saw this movie the first time before I moved here — that line would not have gotten a laugh from me then — but after nine months here that line had me literally doubled over.

Dance me to the end of love

From the BBC website:

  • China takes steps to curb passion
  • China is changing the way it runs compulsory dance classes, introduced to tackle child obesity, because parents fear their children may fall in love.
  • Sports officials say they will now encourage students to dance in large groups or by themselves.
  • Some parents had expressed fears that if boys and girls danced hand in hand they might fall in love and put their studies at risk.”

Now I have ranted previously on the strange way that the concept of “falling in love” gets portrayed as an instantaneous event (see this and this). But seriously, folks, if it was this easy, every thirtysomething female with the incessant sound “tick-tock” in her ear would head to the local Arthur Murray studio and go home happy.

Note: if you have not heard Madeleine Peyroux sing Dance me to the End of Love, go find it–it’s worth the effort.

Rom-com cynicism

On last night’s inter-continental flight, I finally made it through the perfect US-expat-in-UK movie, “The Holiday.” Brief plot summary: a cultural exchange takes place between two stereotypes (Kate Winslet as the English Rose and Cameron Diaz as the ultimate California girl) when they switch houses for two weeks to get a break from romantic troubles at home. New romances inevitably devlop.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I like Kate Winslet, who is rather unapologetic about her non-waif figure (for an even more blatant display of gorgeous real-woman curves, see Tony award-winning actress and Grey’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez in her milk add). The story line with Kate Winslet’s character and an elderly neighbor in her borrowed LA neighborhood was incredibly sweet, and played to my love of 1940s classic film.

I’m less a fan of Cameron Diaz in general, and found her quite unbelievable as a sympathetic lead in this movie. (She was an awesome and utterly believable bad-girl in Ed Burns’s She’s the One.) I live in England and have never had the great pleasure of an emotionally-available man with Jude Law’s charm and good looks appearing uninvited at my place, but it makes good fodder for fantasy. However, I with my thirty-something post-divorce cynicism appear to have lost my ability to fully enjoy rom-com romps.

When Jude Law’s character declares his love for Cameron Diaz’s character less than two weeks after meeting her, I rolled my eyes and just about didn’t make it through the rest of the movie out of disgust. Even one of my all-time favorite fairy tales, Disney’s Little Mermaid, had me a bit uncomfortable a few weeks ago. I appear to have lost my ability to believe in any story line that involves “fall-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after” plots that develop over the course of days or weeks.

Science is, of course, on my side here. It’s more-or-less universally accepted that the early stages of “falling in love” are associated with hormones that dissipate within a year or two (I quote: The romantic love state is a state of a drug-induced euphoria modulated by naturally produced dopamine in our brains. ). Actual relationships take time. Reassuringly for us pragmatists in the crowd, the concept of “falling in love” has been linked with the same brain chemistry as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Apparently the key to a happy marriage is shared housework. So, given our advanced knowledge of neurotransmitters and maps of brain activity by functional MRI, why does Hollywood perpetuate the myth of insta-love? And how sad is it for me that I can’t seem to suspend disbelief and enjoy it any more?

Danger in social networking sites

Last night I succumbed to peer pressure (read: I felt mortified and tragically unhip after talking to an acquaintance ten years my junior and tried to get in the loop) and made a profile on a social networking site. Having registered and not really knowing what to do next, I searched for high school classmates. Big mistake. Huge.

There in full color of the 20 or so people listed from my school and era (thank goodness we appear to be all equally out of the loop) was my first real high school boyfriend, the first boy to ever declare “I love you” and the source of the highs and lows of my entire high school existence. He plucked me from obscurity in my first year of school–he was a class ahead of me, and the literal golden boy of his year. Blonde, athletic, talented, and popular. Our “relationship” was a massive five weeks long and I don’t really remember why it ended or what went wrong. But once it went wrong, it went very, very wrong.

When things didn’t end well (and again, I really don’t quite recall what happened) he chose to subject me to public humiliation in the form of a performance–in front of the entire high school–of a song he penned with the lyrics “think twice before you call someone your love”. I was utterly mortified.

Strangely enough, the story did not end there. This golden boy somehow became a key player in my circle of friends for the rest of high school. For years we had a tempestuous relationship that frequently involved tears from my end. He dated my best friends and I dated his. We eventually became friends of sorts, but there was always this undercurrent of pain. I had not really thought hard about him for years until his face appeared before me thanks to the wonders of the interweb. Blame my distance from home for my having subjected myself to this little walk down memory lane.

Even if 14-year-old-I had felt the same passion for this boy as he apparently did (or thought he did) for me, I was young and utterly unprepared for a serious “I love you” relationship at that age. Looking back, I’m unconvinced of his understanding of the true meaning of those words at that point! Certainly I was not prepared for the bloody aftermath of this brief fling. It’s amazing how high school can mold you and/or scar you. I still have a few really good friends from those days and they remain the best friends I have had. But I present my little story as a warning to others: behold the danger of the social networking sites. The one person you thought you had left in the past might just be lurking out there in full color.  And he just might make you feel bad from a distance of more than 15 years and 4000 miles.