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Thankfully, not all romantic movies feature the familiar framework of boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl rolls down hill, misunderstanding ensues, boy gets drunk and sleeps with girl’s friend, poop is thrown -- with a reconciliation inevitably following. If you search closely enough, there are some true gems that explore unique and often infinitely more rewarding facets of love and relationships in film. With mega-comedian Jim Carrey scaling things back with I Love You, Philip Morris, Player Affinity will take a loving peek at the top ten non-traditional movie romances.
10. Romeo and Juliet
Though this Shakespeare classic could very well be viewed as the ultimate in traditional romance considering its historic origins, the many adaptations of the play featuring the titular doomed lovers, still manage to capture the purity of the tale while keeping The Bard’s themes intact even in a modern setting. You would be hard-pressed to find a modern romance that would adhere to such dark motif and push forward with an ending approximating Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant committing suicide in each others arms. To commit to an oxymoron, these many film adaptations are classically non-traditional storytelling at its best; Romeo and Juliet claims our inaugural position.
Many of those struggling with finding the fantastical state known as true love would pine for the resources to simply create their perfect mate. Such happens in May, the tale of a tortured sole unable to connect to people around her, even those who do not treat her like the outcast so many others do. With her murderous tendencies resulting in a rapid accumulation of bodies, she finally decides to make the perfect friend to love in pure Frankensteinian fashion. Like the another multi-layered entry on this list, May’s predominant genre – horror -- often overshadows the disturbingly touching scenes which explore the nature of relationships through May’s eyes; romanticising perfection can be a dangerous thing.
8. But I’m a Cheerleader
Not to stack this list with homosexually themed films, as they should never be labelled as anything but a true, normal romance when explored in a straightforward fashion, yet But I’m a Cheerleader deserves a spot, striking the perfect balance between humour and sweetness, all within a wholly unique setup. Natasha Lyonne’s Megan is a somewhat odd teenager who despite being a popular cheerleader dislikes kissing her boyfriend and does not exhibit all the hallmarks of a normal girl her age. Sent to a “sexual rehabilitation camp” by her parents who suspect her of being a lesbian, she must struggle with wanting to return to her normal life and her burgeoning feelings towards some of the other girls at the camp. With co-stars Clea Duvall and Michelle Williams also doing great work along with lead Lyonne, this is a criminally under seen film and a great exploration of the many facets of love.
7. Bonnie and
Sometimes the most destructive of relationships are the strongest (or at least the most enduring) and such is ironically both the case, and not, with the 1967 fictionalized account of the bank-robbing duo. This hyper-violent account of the infamous gangster lovers is as disturbing for the bond between Bonnie and
6. Dog Day Afternoon
Alas, for poor Sonny (Al Pacino) things go horribly wrong and his romantic
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The opposite of pining for the perfect “other”, is to go through a bitter breakup which can make you never want to trust anyone again. “Eternal Sunshine” poses deep questions about forgetting and the potency of the past and if it is really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, or to simply wish that person away forever. Jim Carrey, giving a superbly restrained and often heartbreaking performance, is the perfect foil for the spunky Clementine (Kate Winslet) in Michel Gondry’s bizarre but infinitely touching fable. Equals parts tragedy and unconventional romantic comedy, there is little reason to see why this seemingly indie film gained the mainstream recognition it did.
A shocking 1990 Best Picture nominee, Ghost is the rare fantasy romantic offering that crafts an effective and (almost) consistently non-creepy relationship between a woman (Demi Moore) and her dead lover (Patrick Swayze). Most of the strength here is with the cast and thanks to a simultaneously sizzling and tragic chemistry between the aforementioned couple, the movie has easily established itself as a classic. The death of a loved one has been explored again and again in film, and amongst those taking a peek at the macabre fantasy of revisiting those loved but lost, Ghost must receive the accolades that propelled it to box office infamy.
3. Chasing Amy
Everyone has had that someone you can’t have, but what if that someone didn’t even posses the same taste in gender? This is the basis for Kevin Smith’s earnest and complex look at a man’s (Ben Affleck) -- and the lesbian woman he meets’ (Joey Lauren Adams)) -- relationship as he pines for the bond he may never possess. Coupled with Smith’s utterly superb screenplay and fine performances from these then early thespians, Chasing Amy somehow manages to make a potentially ludicrous premise into the beautiful product for which every current rom-com director should pine. The full arc of these characters (including that of Affleck’s Holden and his best friend Banky) is fully realized both in the scenes of humour and heartbreak.
2. Beauty and the Beast
Thought this classic Disney effort and the top choice on our list may exhibit extremely similar themes, it is truly a testament to their lasting emotional resonance and storytelling quality that they can lay side by side amongst the highest ilk of unique love stories. Whatever version of this classic fairytale you choose to embrace, it is hard to deny the timelessness of Beauty and the Beast or its many morals of vanity and acceptance that seem to be withering away in modern society. To which was previously alluded, The 1991 Disney adaptation is my personal favourite. The utterly superb songs, stunning animation and wonderful voice work elevate this fable, while far from shying away from the darker elements. Until the Academy Awards expanded its best picture slots, this remained the only animated film to be nominated for the prestigious category; that should tell you everything.
1. King Kong
What would it be like to fall for a monster or a beast? Even though I’m fairly sure a number of married women would say they have, by way of the classic or Peter Jackson’s modern update (I will choose to wave mention of the 1976 butchering), this is a tragedy in its pure form and timelessly radiates the purity of love, no matter the barrier. When intimately examined, King Kong boasts a number of the plot elements you would find in any modern day romantic offering: the exotic set-up, the rocky encounter between the ape and the beautiful Ann Darrow, the ensuing friendship and the accompanying heartbreak. Even if the inherent innocence of Kong as a creature ripped from his element plays a part in the emotional thud that accompanies his plummet from The Empire State Building, there is so much more at play that no pause remains that should stop this classic from taking the crown as the best non-traditional movie romance.