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Five Unlikely Movie Romances that Worked

Teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson remains in the shadow of the "Twilight" films. However, he hopes to break free from that mold with his leading role in the romantic drama Water for Elephants, which hits theaters this weekend. Here he plays a man who falls in love with the animal trainer’s wife, played by… Reese Witherspoon?!

Yes, you read correctly: the Oscar-winning actress plays the romantic lead opposite Edward Cullen. Sure, it’s an odd combination, but is that always such a bad thing?

We often scrunch up our faces and scowl at certain pairings in romantic films at first glance, but we’re sometimes rewarded with the final product. The chemistry itself plays into it, but there’s something even more special about the film when we didn’t see it coming.

Will Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon end up being a success in the romantic genre, or will this Water for Elephants end up being this decade’s equivalent of Swept Away? We’ll find out soon enough, but we at Player Affinity came up with a list of the unexpected couples in cinema that actually worked quite nicely.

5. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

Unlike many romantic films where love blooms rather quickly – and often without reason, When Harry Met Sally literally paces the relationship, developing the romance over several years. Crystal and Ryan work as a surprisingly strong duo to sell the hilarious transition from awkwardly interacting strangers to passionate lovers without making it look like a chore.

This film makes the list not only because of the leads themselves – comedian Crystal opposite America’s (original) sweetheart Meg Ryan – but also because of their characters, who strangely reflect the actors. Harry is a well-intentioned albeit bumbling and slightly obnoxious man, while Sally is a woman who doesn’t want too much chaos in her life.

4. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail

Meg Ryan returns! Sure, she led about 1,265,394 romantic comedies opposite Tom Hanks, but this film in particular makes a showing because of its characters.

Hanks and Ryan play bitter rivals in the book-selling industry. Hanks is on the big-business end of the bookselling industry and wants to buy out Ryan’s small bookstore for himself. Ironically, the two “meet” each other online and contact via email (no texting or tweeting, folks: this came out in 1998), not knowing the actual identity of the other.

Though it’s not quite as impressive as other Hanks-Ryan outings (Sleepless in Seattle is an absolute must-see), it still sparked enough laughs to entertain audiences. It also earned Ryan her third Golden Globe nomination.

3. Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets

Helen Hunt plays a waitress whose son suffers from severe asthma; Jack Nicholson plays an eccentric and incorrigible romance writer who frequents the restaurant where Hunt works. The two fall in love.

Why wouldn’t we expect this? Well, it’s not a stretch to say that Nicholson has more mileage in the life tank than Hunt. Oddly enough, writer/director James L. Brooks makes little of the obvious difference in age.

Instead, the film focuses on the nurturing and caring of Hunt’s character opposite the curmudgeon-like behavior of Nicholson. The results are both hilarious and heartbreaking, as the two have compelling chemistry with each other. Both won leading acting Oscars for their performances.

2. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Though he’d given several acclaimed performances by the time 2004 rolled around, Jim Carrey was still regarded as a goofy comedic star more so than a serious actor. So it wasn’t entirely expected that he’d star in a quirky independent romantic dramedy…

Nor was it expected that he’d be playing opposite Kate Winslet, whose career comprises mostly character dramas (a.k.a. serious actress alert). The goofball starring with the serious actress: who saw that coming? Despite the initial shock of that leading duo, the two gave some of the most acclaimed performances of their careers: Winslet picked up her fourth Oscar nomination for her leading performance, and the film itself won Best Original Screenplay.

 1. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

Before Brokeback Mountain hit in 2005, gay relationships were touched upon only mildly in film. For the most part, they would be minor, insignificant to the story, and/or played for laughs. Although many films still treat them in such a way, it was this Ang Lee drama that finally got the public to think about such relationships seriously.

At the time of release, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were two up-and-coming actors whose stars had yet to rise. Making this film was such a risk for both of them, but it paid off in the end: they went on to become major Hollywood stars and earned Oscar nominations for their riveting portrayals. 

Who ever thought that a film about the struggles of a gay couple could become a critical favorite? Who ever thought that it would go on to become an audience favorite as well? For this film to become popular among the masses is a true testament to the magnitude of the duo’s work, but it still begs the question: who really saw this coming?


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