Valentine’s is a period where Meg Ryan films and heart-shaped helium balloons accentuate our true loneliness. Or the magical expectations set by gag-inducing clichés have rendered you on strike. The late-1990s roles of Leonardo Di Caprio and Nicholas Sparks film adaptations are not for everyone, by no means. For cynics and bitter loners alike I bring a list of 9 alternative Valentine’s day films.
(500) Days of Summer (Mark Webb, 2009)
I once read that the real revelation in this story is Chloe Grace Moretz’ line- “Just because a girl likes the same bizarro crap you do, it doesn’t make her your soul mate.” Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Tom is a lovable everyman who often mistakes his own projection for love. Summer (Zooey Deschenel) encapsulates all of the irritating quirks that make her inherently his dream girl and later the bane of his existence. The film avoids many romantic cliché’s with harsh realism at times and may be one of few films to ever show the real ups and downs of relationships.
Complete with a great soundtrack of “sad British pop music” and Halls and Oats (in one of the greatest dream sequences ever), this stylish film is one to catch.
Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987)
Taking ‘anti-Valentine’s’ a bit too literally, Fatal Attraction is so sick that it’s funny. The film follows married man Michael Douglas’ brief seduction of Glenn Close one weekend. The woman who inspired the term ‘bunny boiler’ soon becomes his worst nightmare; stalking his family, throwing acid on his car and killing his child’s pet rabbit in her vicious, pathological revenge.
Glenn Close brings a visual to true, psychotic rage in her performance, it’s so full on and ridiculous that it’s comparable to any number of ‘nightmare girl friend’ memes. The film has become a cult classic and is one to surely make any man shake in his boots.
Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2010)
Writer, Diablo Cody shines a new light on cheerleaders, jocks and rock stars: they’re satanic, possessed and carnivorous. Megan Fox as Jennifer plays her most badass role to date in this satirical comedy.
Sure to please both parts of the couple this Valentine’s are scenes to look forward to of her luring and seducing her male schoolmates. And then brutally murdering and feeding off them.
Also, to look forward to is Amanda Seyfried as Needy, Jennifer’s virginal and push-over best friend who tries to protect her from killing any more of the towns folk. Most hysterically of all is the great performance by Adam Brody as Nikolai. Brody satirises his own indie-rock band career, as the evil frontman who places Jennifer under sacrifice. Jennifer’s Body is a clever parody film that is probably as anti-Valentine’s day as you will ever find.
Body Heat (Lawrence Kasden, 1981)
It’s a long, exhaustingly humid summer in Florida for lethargic lawyer, Ned (William Hurt). That is until he begins an affair with married Matty (Kathleen Turner) who seems too good to be true. Seducing him mentally and emotionally she convinces him to murder her husband so they can use his money to elope together. Of course, Matty has ulterior motives.
Body Heat is considered a neo-noir and is heavily influenced by 1940s classic Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944). It is by far one of the successful neo-noirs ever produced with a suspenseful, multi-layered plot that will have you hooked from inception.
Body Heat is a perfect anti-Valentine’s day film for its darkness, deceit and passion. This atmosphere is further set by its chilling film score by John Barry and illustrious cinematography.
Fun fact: George Lucas was a producer on the film and refused to be credited in case the films racy content would ruin his public image.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (David Mirkin, 1997)
“Man, you must really feel tied down,” says Romy (Mira Sorvino) to her married classmate in this feel-good comedy. Nearing 30 years old, Romy and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) are unemployed and single with few future prospects. Despite this they are determined to prove to their high school classmates that they are no longer the losers they were 10 years earlier. Their friendship, although often at odds with each other, is inspiringly funny.
However, the real hero of the film is Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), classmate of the two girls. She is Mean Girls’ Janis Ian with even more cursing and exquisite hatred. Despite teen years which were made miserable by her classmates, she stomps into the reunion, successful and bitter only to tell everyone to fuck off. There are hilarious performances by this cast for outcasts everywhere.
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
First off, if you are bored of angst-ridden protagonists by now you may want to skip this countdown. Much like the previous film, Ghost World follows two misanthropic best friends Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) trying to make their way in the world after high school. Bored one day the two decide to reply to an ad written by 40-something Seymour (Steve Buscemi). They pretend they are the dream girl he is looking for and mock him as they watch him suffer. Enid however, soon builds a relationship with him but ruins his life in the midst.
Ghost World is a great anti-Valentine’s day movie purely for Enid’s cynical epithets. One being the age old thought, “Only stupid people have good relationships.”
Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
The worst things about Valentine’s Day are the clichés. Harold and Maude could not be a more unconventional romance. It remains heart warming without setting off any gag reflexes.
Harold (Bud Cort), a morbid young man obsessed with death meets Maude (Ruth Gordon) a free-spirited 79-year old woman at a funeral –a mutual hobby. They develop a deep relationship wherein Maude teaches Harold to live life to the fullest. Bud Cort manages a humorous portrayal as Harold, he is dark – staging fake suicides, he drives a hearse and when asked to date a woman his own age, he scares them off by self-mutilating his stomach. Make no mistake, this is one dark comedy, emphasis on ‘dark’.
As his relationship goes on with Maude, he begins to accept his life and find some happiness. Where their relationship does comes to an end with Maude’s death, both are more at peace with life having met each other. As Cameron Diaz said in There’s Something About Mary, “It’s the greatest love story of our time” and is perfect for those romantics who hate typical romantic films.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
How does one summarise this film? It’s near impossible. Ever imagined every painful memory of an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend getting permanently deleted from your mind? If so, this touching, beautifully directed film will relate to you.
Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1987)
Before there was Mean Girls, there was Heathers; High School cliques, boyfriends and multiple homicide? Two out of three.
The dominant clique at this high school are three vacuous girls named Heather. They soon invite Winona Ryder’s Veronica to join their gang. Not long later does she find romance with punky outsider, J.D (Christian Slater). He is mysterious, seductive and doesn’t care for the Heather’s, like Veronica. What Veronica doesn’t realise is that he is violent. Heather-by-Heather, murders begin to occur and Veronica’s new nemesis becomes her boyfriend, J.D.
This film is Winona Ryder in her heyday. It is painfully dated and goes down as a 1980s cult classic. And, there is nothing more satisfying than watching Winona’s cigarette get lit by the blowback of the exploding bomb J.D straps to himself.