Valentine’s Day comes only once a year, but movie fans can enjoy films about romance all year long, thanks to modern technology. If you need suggestions, listed below are the movies – which include some oldies but goodies -- picked by our contributors to ReelTalk Movie Reviews as their romantic favorites.
ANNIE HALL. According to Adam Hakari, Woody Allen captured the essence of a relationship just perfectly in this film -– “the good times shared, the eccentricities explored and what happens when things start to run out of gas.” Hakari calls “Annie Hall” both painfully funny and painfully tragic. He says it features “plenty of wit, likable characters and a more firm grasp on the complexities of romance than most movies these days can ever hope to achieve.”
BRIEF ENCOUNTER. John P. McCarthy picks this 1945 drama as his favorite. “In the gloom of World War II, two extremely ordinary, very married Brits fall in love on the station platform,” McCarthy explains. “Not only does this classic have an amazing pedigree -- with David Lean at the helm, Noel Coward adapting his play, and stars Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson and Stanley Holloway – but by fusing a particular time and place with a universal state of mind and feeling, it has enormous personal and cultural resonance. It’s a kitchen sink romance bordering on world-historical tragedy, accompanied, of course, by Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.”
CASABLANCA. Donald Levit’s “absolutely favorite romantic movie” is "Casablanca" -– which, he believes may be the ultimate romantic one. Why? “Aside from Bogart, it has stars who are exactly right -– witness the David Soul version, which was okay but just not THE movie -– and wonderful secondary players,” Levit responds. He also applauds the great writing in “this most quoted movie by far” as well as the film’s “cynical irony with the soft right-hearted interior beneath.”
THE GRADUATE. Frank Wilkins admits to watching “The Graduate” over and over again. “It never seems to grow old to me,” he declares. “It was a break-out film not only for Dustin Hoffman, but for an America that needed an awakening as well. I can’t recall another film that was so emblematic of and important to the decade (1960s) in which it was made. Love the soundtrack too.”
JUST LIKE HEAVEN. Turning to newer releases, Geoffrey Roberts selects this Reese Witherspoon offering from last year as his favorite. “A lot of people made the mistake of writing ‘Just Like Heaven’ off during its theatrical run because it looked like a madcap caper or mushy romance,” he points out. “But this film is more than that. It’s funny, romantic and, above all, intelligent. Its real focus is not solely on romance but on how far two people who have just met will go to help each other.”
PRETTY WOMAN. Diana Saenger picks this Julia Roberts/Richard Gere romantic movie because she likes the way it shows a down-and-outer can come out on top. “I love that Julia Roberts’ character keeps her integrity and self-esteem,” Saenger says. “This movie is funny, warm and has two great leads. It’s quite entertaining.”
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. “Love at first sight barely interests me,” Jeffrey Chen reports. “What I find romantic is when two people discover, slowly and steadily through time, what they truly mean to each other. That’s what makes this movie the most romantic to me.”
These are all excellent choices, but the latest film version of PRIDE & PREJUDICE wins my vote. It’s such fun watching the opinionated Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and the haughty Darcy (Matthew MacFayden) find out how wrong they’ve been in their snap judgments about each other. You can’t help feeling like cheering when they overcome this obstacle to their romance after learning about their faults and deciding to improve. Do you think Jane Austen realized she created -- with her classic novel -- the template for most romantic comedies to follow?