IFC.com’s newest web series “Like So Many Things…” premieres today, and co-creators Marin Gazzaniga and Anslem Richardson offer up their thoughts on the best films about romances that are anything but easy.
“Now it isn’t that I don’t like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I’m strangely drawn toward you, but, well, there haven’t been any quiet moments.”
— “Bringing Up Baby”
Meeting Mr./Ms. Wrong movies come in many varieties. There are the star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by outside forces (“Romeo and Juliet”). Or the couple whose hate for each other is only masking the sparks of true passion (just about any Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy movie). Then there’s the man or woman who’s certain that someone is their one and only, but has to spend the course of the film convincing that person that it’s true (“Bringing Up Baby”). Why is it so appealing to watch couples who shouldn’t work either figure out that, against all odds, they do, or, well, fail miserably?
Jeanne: “Ca va pas, t’as des problemes, hein?”
Paul: “There’s some butter in the kitchen…”
Jeanne: “So you hear… What did you answer?”
Paul: “Go get the butter.”
–“Last Tango in Paris”
We founded ThisThing Films together, and we’re opposites in many ways: black/white, male/female, self-assured/self-deprecating… umbrella drinks/tequila shots. And in making our series “Like So Many Things…”, we started with two characters who shouldn’t work but who, for whatever reasons, try like hell anyway. Here are both of our top five films where opposites attract, proving, once again, the yin/yang of creative collaboration.
1. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938)
Directed by Howard Hawks
The supposedly ditzy socialite, who knows exactly what she’s doing, goes after the supposedly brilliant paleontologist, who hasn’t got a clue. This may be the best opposites-attract movie ever. Plus, is there anything better than the single take of Cary Grant trying to get Katharine Hepburn to realize the back of her dress is gone? Scorsese’s Copacabana shot in “Goodfellas” is cool, sure, but I’ll take break-neck dialogue and technical comedy in front of the camera over Steadycam shots anytime.
2. “Romeo and Juliet” (1968)
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Maybe it’s because I was about 13 when a racy English teacher made us stay after school and watch this, but I’ve never seen better love at first sight than Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. The mother of all meeting Mr. Wrong movies, Franco Zeffirelli’s take on the young lovers set the standard for all cinematic depictions of young, passionate, and forbidden love.
3. “Far From Heaven” (2002)
Directed by Todd Haynes
This is really a Romeo and Juliet story, only it’s societal norms and racism that keep Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) and Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert) apart, not family loyalties. The love is sweet, the unfulfillment tragic. Even though it’s Meeting Mr. Wrong with a message, Haynes manages to keep the moralizing secondary to the longing. And a lot of the longing comes from wanting those clothes — in those colors.
4. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
Directed by Michel Gondry
In a mind-bending story of a mismatched pair who have tried and failed to make it work, this movie pushes the romantic question of whether true love can overcome all obstacles. Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) have had their memories of each other erased, but Joel realizes too late he doesn’t want to lose Clementine and struggles vainly to keep little pieces of her hidden in his brain where they can’t be found. In a bit of inspired casting against type, Carrey is reserved, for once, and Winslet plays the loose cannon.
5. “Something Wild” (1986)
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Charlie (Jeff Daniels) gets his tie loosened by Lulu (Melanie Griffith) when she hijacks his day and takes him on a road trip. Charlie falls for the wild gal while being forced to pose as a suitable suitor to her parents. But it’s when Ray Liotta shows up as Lulu’s estranged ex-husband that we realize who the real Mr. Wrong is. The dark twist reminds us that not all bad boys are charming, and attraction isn’t always romantic.