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Valentine's Day inspires reel love

The rise and fall of timeless romance movies

By Katie Swinton
On February 8, 2012

  • Renowned love story “Casablanca” epitomizes Hollywood’s golden era. Courtesy of sethsaith.com

 

As Valentine's Day approaches, the usual bombardment of candy hearts and Hallmark cards fill the stores as the premiere romance film of the season fills the screen. In past years, movies such as "Valentine's Day" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" have taken on this role and have shockingly been unable to reach the low expectations set for them.  Yet, people will continue to flock to theaters for this year's Valentine's Day movie, "The Vow." 

For those who have somehow missed the previews, which seems to dominate every channel, the movie is about a man who, following a car accident in which his wife loses all memories of their relationship, must make her fall back in love with him. 

Although the film is inspired by a true story, the ending is as predictable as ever—the couple will fall back in love despite the nuisance of an annoying ex-boyfriend. 

In this era of romance films, Hollywood is filled with these idealistic love stories. Not that there is anything wrong with two people falling in love, but recent romance films have become contrived and repetitive. 

For example, take any of Katherine Heigl's movies. While the specific details may differ, the conflict of the story remains the same: girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, girl can't be with boy, girl and boy end up together. To name a few: "27 Dresses," "The Ugly Truth," "Life As We Know It"—the list goes on and on.

Romance films have somehow lost the excitement and power they once had and have evolved into formulaic cliches. Let's be honest.  Nobody will be watching "Killers" (yes, another Heigl movie) in 10, or probably even two years.

 Consider two of the most famous romance films ever made: "Gone with the Wind" (1939) and "Casablanca" (1942). Although they are around 70 years old,  people still watch them, or at the very least have heard of them. 

"Gone with the Wind" takes place in the south during the Civil War.  Already, this adds another dynamic to the movie—not only must the characters deal with the drama of their own romance, but also with the complexities that the war brings into their lives. Furthermore, the movie presents a selfish and unlikable main character, Scarlett O'Hara, who is ultimately rejected by Rhett Butler. The famous words, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," provide a refreshingly realistic picture of romance. Essentially, the guy won't stick around forever if you are whiny and ungrateful.  

"Casablanca" occurs during World War II, and deals with people fleeing from Nazi-occupied Europe.  Plagued with a variety of conflicts, the love story between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman is ultimately resolved by their separation. Bogart rationally and realistically considers that if she left her husband she would regret it, "...maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of [her] life." 

In both of these movies, the premise of war forces the characters to tackle conflicts outside of their own lives, and the main characters do not end up together in the end. These movies do not fit the formula that many romance movies strictly adhere to today, and perhaps this aids their continued success. 

Of course, no one really wants to see realistic, rational representations of love. People go to watch idealistic and exciting movies, which explains the success of movies such as "Grease," "Dirty Dancing," "Pretty Woman" and "The Princess Bride."

The problem lies in most of the movies produced in the past decade. Hollywood has produced less of the quality romance movies and more of the generic and predictable ones. Perhaps Hollywood needs to remember that a good movie does not necessarily mean a formulaic romance and Disney-style forever after. 

 


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