Happy Valentine’s Day! If you are like me you like to commemorate any holiday with a good movie. Thanksgiving…Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Halloween… er… Halloween, Christmas… Die Hard. Most are pretty obvious and easy to choose from. But what to watch for a day that’s whole meaning is the subject matter of tens of thousands of movies regardless of the date? Straight up Romance films are on the table but most of my picks lean toward the Rom Com. Romantic Comedies have been a genre of movie subject matter since Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan worked at that Little Shop Around the Corner. I tend to lean towards the least obvious forms of entertainment in situations like this so, with that, I give you my Top 10 Valentine’s Day Alternative Rom Com/Romantic Movie Guide… in no particular order. Enjoy…
10. The Big Sick (2017) – Kumail Nanijani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl’s cultural backgrounds clash, boy and girl break up, girl gets sick and falls into a coma, boy takes a spiritual journey while coming to terms with his true feelings. Yes, it’s a comedy. The Big Sick was the breakout independent comedy of 2017 garnering multiple nominations at the Oscars and Golden Globes.
Side note: If you enjoy stand up comedy you’ll enjoy the supporting cast and New York comedy scene setting.
9. They Came Together (2014) – Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler
At first glance, the movie poster for this film (from the people who brought you Wet, Hot American Summer, Role Models and The State) would lead you to believe that They Came Together is another run of the mill, stereotypical Rom Com. Once you dig in you’ll soon realize that it was a blatant set up from the start. David Wain’s Rom Com parody They Came Together pays tribute AND parodies the modern-day romantic comedy with Rudd and Poehler playing the will-they-won’t-they, no-they-won’t, wait-they-did main characters.
Best cameo: The otherwise serious thespian Michael Shannon as a jealous ex.
8. Groundhog Day (1993) – Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell
Two words… Bill Murray
7. The Wedding Singer (1998) – Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore
Robbie Hart (Sandler) is a hopeless romantic whose one wish is to step off the stage and be the groom for once when his relationship, and his career as a Wedding Singer for happy newlyweds, takes a bad turn. Robbie soon meets the girl of his dreams (Barrymore) but, wouldn’t you know it, she’s engaged to the “wrong guy”. An otherwise basic storyline if not set in the greatest decade of all time… the 80s. The fashion, music and pop culture references give this movie an entertaining and enjoyable distinction. As does Sandler’s turn as a romantic lead coming off movies like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison.
Favorite side character: Boy George uber-fan George (the late Alexis Arquette), drunk groom-of-the-brother (Steve Buscemi) (“Best guitar player in the world!”) and Billy Idol.
6. True Romance (1993) – Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper
Ok…purists will argue with me on this one and you’re all absolutely right. But I loosely submit this film for your generous consideration. The name alone gives it clout. The subject matter is another story. But the true essence of the story delivers as a romance flick… an unbreakable love between two strangers who quickly find themselves running from pimps, mobsters and angry cops. Underneath the dark and gritty subject matter (written by a fresh Quentin Tarantino) is a witty and sweet love story (written by a fresh Quentin Tarantino).
Extra points… It’s a Tony Scott film and his films are always visually stunning.
5. Obvious Child (2014) – Jenny Slate, Gabby Hoffman, Paul Briganti, Richard Kind
Jenny is my “it” girl at the moment, so I’m including it. It’s definitely not your average Rom Com, and is super independent, but it makes for a nice alternative choice for your movie watching options. The story is simple, the dilemma is not. Donna (Slate) gets pregnant after a one-night stand. Can she, and the father to be, find love through this life-changing news?
Breakout character: Richard Kind’s gift to all of us is making any movie he’s in shine.
4. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
It’s quick, manic, uncomfortable at times, but you can’t help but root for these two kids who find love despite their mental states and family issues. The performances by all involved are stellar, the movie garnered multiple Oscar nominations including a win for Jennifer Lawrence. This film proves that no one is perfect, most relationships are anything but typical and love finds a way.
Favorite scene: De Niro’s character loses a bet.
3. Indian Summer (1993) – Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, Kevin Pollack, Elizabeth Perkins, Diane Ladd
1993 sure was a good year for movies! You’ve probably never heard of this gem but it is definitely worth a viewing. Loosely based on the Dummies Guide to Big Chill Plotlines, this comedy centers around a group of childhood friends returning to the camp they grew up attending together during their youth. Love blossoms between two of the campers but it’s really a love story about old friends and memories from our youth that we hold dearly. This could be better suited in the Dramedy category but I just wanted an excuse to introduce this movie to you so… there you go.
Highlight performances: Alan Arkin (who I believe is my favorite actor of all time) as the aging camp owner and horror master Sam Raimi as the camp handyman (the most random of casting decisions).
2. Zach and Miri Make a Porno (2008) - Seth Rogan, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Craig Robinson
Beware… this is a straight up Kevin Smith film with crude and lewd dialog and a plot that is literally spelled out in the movie’s title. Unlike Chasing Amy, Smith’s first attempt at the alternative Rom Com, Zach and Miri spares us from forced diatribes from characters you can never really get behind and root for. Zach and Miri begin as two best friends who ultimately surprise you by the end with their likeability and inevitable romantic connection even though you kinda know that’s where the story is leading. And they make a ponro… so there’s that too.
1. Die Hard (1988) – Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman
A man defies all odds to be reunited with the love of his life despite getting sidetracked by personal and professional roadblocks determined to keep them apart. With the help of a guardian angel from below, John McClane must come to terms with his true feelings and prepare for the fight of his life… for love. If that’s not romantic I don’t know what is!